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New Roxy Coss album leads her quintet in a new direction

Roxy Coss emerges from the pandemic with an exciting new quintet album.
Album art by Mary Coss
Roxy Coss emerges from the pandemic with an exciting new quintet album.

Saxophone boss Roxy Coss and her band visited the KNKX studios at the end of 2019, celebrating their new album Quintet. Almost three years (and a global pandemic) later, Coss returns with the same band and all original songs on Disparate Parts.

Released March 25, the new music marks a personal evolution for Coss. She wrote much of the album while pregnant with her first child. The addition of motherhood to her roles as a female musician, bandleader, and composer is noted in the album title. It's also the focus of the album's artistic center, a four-movement suite of songs, "The Body", "The Mind", "The Heart", and "The Spirit."

Building on their roots in jazz tradition, the Roxy Coss Quintet explores new harmonic ideas and diverse rhythms and textures on Disparate Parts.

Part 1 of the suite, "The Body" welcomes rock guitar edges from Alex Wintz and dynamic interplay between the musicians that mellows in the end. The intensity of carrying a child for nine months, and the happy conclusion, is well-communicated.

"The Mind" develops a challenging melody line from Coss, leading to a free-flowing electric piano solo from Miki Yamanaka. The mood is one of confusion and anxiety, closing with a forceful sax statement.

Part III "The Heart" slows down the energy. Roxy Coss takes to the tenor sax on a lovely melody, featuring a contemplative bass solo from Rick Rosato. Drummer Jimmy McBride makes use of his brushes in tandem with Yamanaka's acoustic piano on the song's gentle ebb and flow.

The suite concludes with "The Spirit". Yamanaka's keyboards hint at a lullaby, while Coss finds an array of pretty notes on her soprano sax. Wintz's clean guitar sound changes to distortion, weaving around Coss to a dramatic, triumphant climax that returns to the melodic center.

A Neon Jazz Interview with Jazz Saxophonist Roxy Coss on the 2022 Release Disparate Parts

Disparate Parts also includes original songs from Coss bandmates, including five very different takes of Yamanaka's driving "February". Beginning from the same opening riff, each take launches into brief moments of free improvisation. Coss explores unique spaces and strong ideas whether on tenor or soprano, ditching melody for pure emotion.

Roxy Coss also pays tribute to her mentor, the great pianist Harold Mabern. "Mabes" delivers a catchy melody and a relaxed swing. Wintz' guitar sound is clean and direct, pushed by McBride's urgent drumming. Coss' tenor solo is confident and melodic, soulful and searching.

A proud product of the Garfield High jazz program, Coss recalled her own Seattle upbringing at that 2019 Studio Session performance. Prescient of her present-day motherhood, she told our audience that musician's shouldn't "want to be who we're going to become as a fully formed person. Otherwise, there's no point to life. It's the journey!"

Roxy Coss shares an exciting part of her journey on Disparate Parts, and another step of an artistic career that continues to mature and develop into a leading voice in jazz.

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.