She moved to New York on a Canada Council grant in 1985, and soon emerged as one of the most gifted jazz pianists of her generation, playing under the particular influence of Herbie Hancock. In 1987 she began playing and travelling internationally with the all-female quartet of tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson and became a member of OTB (Out Of The Blue - see also Ralph Bowen). She also toured in bands led by such major US jazzmen as the saxophonist Wayne Shorter (1988), the trombonist J.J. Johnson (1988), and the trumpeter Jon Faddis (1989). Her own groups have performed at Canadian festivals (eg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, du Maurier Downtown Jazz Festival), in New York, and in Japan. Ensembles led by Rosnes have included trio, quartet and quintet formats, frequently with her husband, drummer Billy Drummond.
Her playing on the album Renee Rosnes, which included duets with Shorter and Hancock, drew praise from Fred Bouchard for its 'exquisite balances of delicacy and power, witty and weighted ideas, assertiveness and deference' (Down Beat, June 1990). A succession of recordings for Blue Note, as leader, drove her reputation higher with each effort: Without Words (1992); Ancestors (1996); As We Are Now (1997); Art and Soul (1999); With a Little Help from My Friends (2001). Life on Earth (2002) explored world music influences with its East Indian, African and Spanish elements, reflecting the pianist's growing awareness of her East Indian parentage. She maintains ties to Canada: her composition "Icelight" on Life on Earth commemorates the establishment of the territory of Nunavut. Deep Cove (2004, CBC) was recorded in Vancouver.
Rosnes's recordings often reflect her abiding interest in classical music. She recorded her own arrangement of Manuel de Falla's Nana; Without Words featured a string orchestra contributing to an overall fusion effect.
Rosnes is one of a few Canadian women jazz musicians to have her own ensembles, and to compose. Among her recorded compositions are the titles "The Storyteller," "I.A. Blues ," "Fleur-de-lis," "North of the Border," "For the Moment," "Malaga Moon," "Nemesis," and "Homeward." She was commissioned to write and arrange for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and Winton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Centre. Robert Farnon arranged her Malaga Moon for orchestra.
Activities 1991 - Present
Rosnes was the pianist for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band from the mid-1990s, and played and recorded with the Canadian ensemble Free Trade (with whom she toured Canada in 1994), and with Native Colours. She has toured Europe and Asia, including Japan, and recorded with the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra. Her lyrical depth has made her in demand with such figures as Wynton Marsalis and Marian McPartland, and she has played often at Lincoln Centre. She is a founding member of the San Francisco Modern JAZZ Collective.
She was briefly artist-in-residence at Humber College in 2002 and has given master-classes. Rosnes moved to New Jersey early in her career.
Awards and Tributes
Rosnes received Juno awards in 1992 (For the Moment), 1997 (Ancestors) and 2003 (Life on Earth). Her recordings won Jazz Report's best jazz album of the year twice: (Without Words, 1993 and As We Are Now, 1998). The former recording was listed in USA Today's top ten of 1993. Jazz Report also named Rosnes pianist of the year 1994 and 1998.
She is acknowledged "as the best Canadian jazz pianist of her generation and one of the few Canadian jazz artists to attain international acceptance" (Ottawa Citizen, 20 July 2001).
Author Revised: Betty Nygaard King
Renee Rosnes. Shorter soprano saxophone, Hancock piano, B. Marsalis tenor saxophone, Bowen tenor saxophone, Carter double-bass, Nash drums. 1988, 1989. Somethin' Else 5511/Blue Note 93561
Face to Face. Hurst double-bass, Drummond drums. 1989. Somethin' Else 5508
For the Moment. Henderson tenor saxophone, Wilson soprano and alto saxophone, Coleman double-bass, Drummond drums. 1990. Blue Note CDP-7-94859-2
Gary Thomas Seventh Quadrant. 1987. Enja 5047
- While the Gate is Open. (1991). JMT 834391
Sonny Fortune Invitation. 1988. Why Not 32-ED-5031
OTB Spiral Staircase. 1989. Somethin' Else 5509/Blue Note 93006
Superblue Superblue II. 1989. Blue Note 92997
Jon Faddis Into the Faddisphere. 1989. Epic OE-45266
- Hornucopia. (1991). Epic EK-46958
Greg Osby Season of Renewal. 1989. JMT 834435(CD)
Robin Eubanks KARMA. (1991). JMT 834462 (CD)
Fischer, Doug. "A Canadian in New York," Ottawa Citizen, 20 July 2001
D'Souza, Jerry. "For the Moment: Renee Rosnes," Coda, Sept 2000
Kennedy, Shauna. "Renee Rosnes bares her art and soul," Canadian Musician, Nov 1999
King, Bill. "The personal touch," Jazz Report, Fall 1999
Hill, Hal. "Renee Rosnes," Performing Arts & Entertainment in Canada, 1 Dec 1996
Hadekel, Peter. "Faith in future comes easily for jazz pianist Rosnes," Montreal Gazette, 31 Oct 1995
King, Bill. "The six dominant women of Canadian jazz," The Record, 20 Feb 1995
Smallbridge, Justin. "She-Bop," Saturday Night, Apr 1993
Links to Other Sites
Inside The Music
Listen to past episodes of CBC's "Inside The Music" program featuring some of Canada's leading musicians. Click on the audio player to start streaming.
Renee Rosnes at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival
Click on "Listen to Part 2" to hear acclaimed pianist Renee Rosnes in performance with Marian McPartland, host of the NPR program "Piano Jazz."
Jazz Valentines: Bill Charlap And Renee Rosnes
Listen to Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes performing some of their favourite jazz tunes on Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz" program. From National Public Radio in the US.
The website for internationally renowned jazz pianist and composer Renee Rosnes. Features her biography, discography, music clips, and more.
A biography of Renee Rosnes from The Kennedy Center in the US.
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