Born: March 19, 1953 Primary Instrument: Piano
Ms. Rosewoman was born in Oakland, CA where she started playing piano at age six and studied jazz traditions with the great pianist/organist Ed Kelly. In her late teens she began playing percussion and studying Cuban/Haitian folkloric idioms. By the time she moved to New York in 1978, she had already performed at major venues in the San Francisco Bay Area with her own ensembles and with Julian Priester, Julius Hemphill, Baikida Carroll and Oliver Lake and other fellow jazz innovators. In New York Rosewoman formed new ensembles and continued to present her music while collaborating with Rufus Reid, Reggie Workman, Freddie Waits, James Spaulding, Billy Hart, Carlos Ward and others as well as with Cuban master drummer/vocalist, Orlando ‘Puntilla’ Rios, and other musicians in the folkloric community.
In 1983 she received an NEA grant to form the pioneering 14-piece ensemble “New Yor- Uba, A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America” that debuted at The Public Theater that December and appeared at festivals throughout Europe in 1984. That year she made her recording debut as pianist and arranger for the Cuban songo group, Los Kimy. Her experience as a percussionist continues to shape many aspects of her music. In the Latin music genre, Rosewoman has performed with Puntilla’s “Nueva Generacion,” Celia Cruz, Paquito D’Rivera, Daniel Ponce and Chocolate among others.
Rosewoman received the ASCAP/Meet the Composer Commission for Emerging Composers that year (awarded by Dizzy Gillespie, Marian McPartland and Lester Bowie) resulting in a new work per-formed by the 40-piece Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra and a quintet of improvisers, including Rufus Reid, Greg Osby and Howard Johnson.
Rosewoman’s recording debut as a leader, The Source (Soul Note /1984) was praised for its radiance and ingenuity. Quintessence (Enja/1987) was named by numerous critics and polls as one of the best jazz releases of the year and has been cited as one of the best jazz recordings of the 1980's. As Ms. Rosewoman established a reputation as one of the most ingenious and prolific bandleaders of her generation, Down Beat wrote: …She communicates assurance and ardor whether on the cutting edge of jazz or within the mainstream. What musicianship and moving expression! Bring on the future. In addition to five recordings with Quintessence, Ms. Rosewoman has two trio recordings: Occasion To Rise (Evidence/1993), was voted one of the year’s best recordings by six critics’ polls. The critically acclaimed album Spirit (Blue Note/1996) was recorded live at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Since it's debut in 1986 at the Cooper Union Great Hall in New York, Quintessence has been the main vehicle for Rosewoman's evolution as pianist, composer and bandleader. She assembled dy-namic bands to interpret her writing, and became known for bringing together musicians who today are some of the most inventive voices in jazz, including saxophonists Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, Gary Thomas, David Sanchez, Steve Wilson, Miguel Zenon and Mark Shim; bassists Kenny Davis, Anthony Cox and Lonnie Plaxico; and drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and Gene Jackson, among others. Many have cited the experience of playing in Quintessence as notably influential in their development as musicians, composers and bandleaders. Regarding Ms. Rosewoman’s previous Quintessence release, Guardians of the Light (Enja/2000), an NPR review noted: “…[She] sounds more than ever the confident master of her committed course. An indomitable modern jazz pianist, her singular sound ideas expand readily to her dark, fiery ensembles. So it all comes together, big, tight and flexible, rangy, spontaneous, serious and mysterious. Rosewoman and her band are jazz believers, jazz devotees, keepers of the flame.
Rosewoman and Quintessence received a 2003 Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation New Works Creation and Presen-tation Commission. In 2006 they received one of the first Chamber Music America Encore Grants. Other recent activity includes a six- country European tour with trombonist Robin Eubanks and a series of duo performances with Greg Osby.
Rosewoman has appeared at jazz festivals, concert halls and clubs throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe including the JVC, Ravinia, At-lanta, San Francisco, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, North Sea, Paris, Warsaw and Berlin jazz festivals and Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Cooper Union Great Hall, the Public Theater, MOMA, NYU, Temple University, Stanford University, The Blue Note (New York & Tokyo), the Village Vanguard, The Apollo, Sweet Basil, Birdland, Jazz Standard, Yoshi's, New Morning (Paris) and the Jazz Café (London). As an educator she conducts classes, workshops and clinics at colleges and universities around the US while teaching piano and composition privately. Ms. Rosewoman has also held past and current teaching positions at NYU and the New School for Social Research and in February 2006 a composition department residency at Berklee College of Music.
New Yor-Uba: A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America
The name New Yor-Uba reflects the progression of the music of the Yoruba people from Nigeria, through Cuba, to present- day New York.
With deep sadness I acknowledge the passing of my treasured mentor, associate and friend, Chani Ilu Ana, Orlando Puntilla Rios.
Our association began in 1980 when he first came here from Cuba. The impact of his musical and spritual guidance and contributions to my New Yor-Uba ensemble are beyond words--all who know me well know this. I bid him farewell and thank him for all he has done for the musical and spiritual communities where he was and will always be king. Master tambolero, rumbero and vocalist in the tradition of Afro- Cuban sacred and secular music--revered in Cuba, the US and Europe-- we had the great honor and blessing of his presence here. His passage begins as I near the completion of my year and I am very thankful that I made Ocha while Puntilla was here and that I was able to receive his Aché as Iyawo. Puntilla, may Olofi receive you with a huge embrace.
Pianist/Composer Michele Rosewoman's music salutes the Orishas (Yoruban deities) in a contemporary jazz setting using original compositions and contemporary arrangements of traditional Yoruban (Nigeria) and Arara (Dahomey) chants.
The ten to 14-piece ensemble integrates brass, saxophones and a rhythm section (including some of today's most creative performers of America's indigenous music, jazz) with a core of masters of Cuban folkloric music preservers of an ancient tradition. This core includes three bata and conga drummers and traditional vocals and dance.
The Bata are two-headed talking drums from Nigeria which, when played traditionally, speak the Yoruba language. The words to many of the songs performed by New Yor-Uba are ancient cantos or chants sung to the Orishas in either the Yoruban dialect or in Arara. The religion of the Yoruba is very prominent in Cuba where it is known as Santeria. It traveled with the slaves to many parts of the Caribbean and South America, and in the last two decades, communities of religious and musical practitioners have become widespread in North America, particularly in New York, where many Cubans have settled.
In 1983 Rosewoman received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for the formation and presentation of New Yor-Uba, A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America. The premiere took place in December of 1983 at Joseph Papp's Public Theater in New York City and featured the Cuban master drummer/vocalist Orlando Puntilla Rios. The 14-piece ensemble’s debut performance also included Gene Golden, Eddie Rodriguez, Olu Femi Mitchell, Rufus Reid, Howard Johnson, Bob Stewart, Oliver Lake, Baikida Carroll and John Stubblefield, amongst others. The event was called epic by many who attended and signaled the emergence of a major link in the Afro-Cuban jazz lineage. Her life-long immersion in both traditions inevitably led Michele Rosewoman to form New Yor-Uba with its unique synthesis of contemporary jazz and traditional religious Cuban folkloric music.
Ms. Rosewoman's interest in Cuban music began in her youth with exposure to world music at home. In her late teens, she began playing congas and studied with master drummers who emphasized the religious and spiritual aspects of this musical tradition. Upon coming to New York in 1978, Rosewoman began playing with Cuban dance bands. She soon formed an important association with the Cuban m aster drummer/vocalist Orlando Puntilla Rios, who has been both a mentor and a member of this ensemble since its inception, providing Rosewoman with a valuable organic source as she creates the group’s repertoire.
In the 1980’s, the ensemble performed at festivals and clubs throughout Europe and the U.S. including the NOS Radio Festival in Holland, the major jazz festivals in Berlin, Paris, Warsaw and Zurich, the Nancy Jazz Festival in France, the Tampere Jazz Festival in Finland and the Montmarte Jazz Festival in Copenhagen. Appearances in the U.S. include the Atlanta Jazz Festival, the Museum of Natural History, Jazz Track, and INTAR Hispanic Cultural Center, all in New York City. Ms. Rosewoman further cemented New Yor-Uba’s status as a forerunner to the jazz world’s current romance with Cuban music by being among the first to bring an undiluted form of this folklore into New York jazz clubs. In March 1998, Ms. Rosewoman brought New Yor-Uba to Sweet Basil in New York City, followed by a performance at The New School’s Tischman Auditorium later that year. In 1999 they presented a series of clinics and performances on the West Coast, including Cal State University in Fresno, Yoshi’s in Oakland and Kuumbwa in Santa Cruz. Most recently New Yor-Uba performed at the Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia and at Sweet Rhythm in New York City.
Other members of the New Yor-Uba ensemble have included Pedro Pablo Martinez, Ernesto Gato Gatell, Eddie Bobe, Abraham Rodriguez, Skip Bernie, Alberto Morgan, Andy Gonzales, Steve Berrios, Gary Thomas, Steve Wilson, Greg Osby, Miguel Zenon, Gary Bartz, Craig Handy, Don Byron, Michael Mossman, Josh Roseman, Rufus Reid, Kenny Davis, Anthony Cox, Armando Gola and Gene Jackson.
Source: Mitchell Feldman
Awards:Chamber Music America New Works and Presentation Grant 2008
New York, NY
Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
Summary of Qualifications
Thirty years diverse professional experience performing and recording
Extensive experience as enesmble leader, organizing and leading ensembles ranging from trio to 15-piece
Thirty years experience writing and arranging for standard and non-standard ensembles, including percussion-based ensembles and full orchestra
Twenty-six years teaching experience providing master classes, ensemble classes, vocal workshops, individual and group instruction in piano technique, theory and composition
Recipient of numerous grants and honors as a composer and performer
2002 - 2003 Jackie McLean’s Artist Collective Vocal instructor
1998 – present Montclair State U. Summer Jazz Wrkshp Ensemble, composition, piano instructor
1998 – present Arts Incorporated, NYC Artist in Residence
1993/1997 - present New School University Faculty ensemble/piano instructor
1993 – 1996 New York University Faculty piano instructor
1993 - 1996 Boys & Girls High School Contemporary Youth Choir director
1987 - 1989 NYC Parks Department Contemporary Youth Choir director/founder 1985 - 1989 New York Kids on Stage Music Director
1975 - 1978 Haight-Ashbury Music Workshop Ensemble Instructor
1973 - present Home Studio Piano and Composition instructor
Clinician (1990 – present)
Upcoming jazz piano maseter class at
the Jazz School, Berkeley on March 1st, 2009
Amherst College Amherst, MA
Berklee College of Music Boston, MA
Birmingham School of Fine Arts Birmingham, AL
California State University, Fresno CA
California State University, Monterey , CA
California State University, Sonoma , CA
Mannes College of Music New York, NY
Montclair State University Montclair, NJ
New York University New York, NY
Queens College Queens, NY
School of Visual Arts New York, NY
Smithsonian Institute Washington, DC
Stanford University Stanford, CA
Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA
University of Tennessee Knoxville, TN