Roxy Coss

Restless Idealism



iTunes - $9.90

MUSIC REVIEW BY John Murph, Downbeat


FEATURE STORY Roxy Coss' sophomore album, Restless Idealism, superbly conveys the ecstasy and agony of a musician's early career stages. From illuminating titles such as "Waiting," "Push" and "Tricky" to the vivacious tone and improvisations unraveling from Coss' tenor and soprano saxophones, the program plays out like pages from a journal.

Coss, 29, lifted the disc's title from a passage in Hunter S. Thompson's novel "The Rum Diary" - an appropriate source for an album that conveys the tension between optimism and doubt that many people feel when they follow their passion.

"In school they don't really tell you what to do after you graduate," said Coss, who graduated magna cum laude from William Paterson University in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in jazz studies and performance. "They give you all of this information about music. But they really don't guide you in the career aspect of it. That struggle between the ups and downs can seem very extreme at the beginning of anyone's career."

One of the most poignant moments on Restless Idealism occurs midway with Coss' original ballad "Happiness Is A Choice." She uncorks a lulling melody on tenor underneath Chris Pattishall's serene piano accompaniment and bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Willie Jones III's languid undercurrent. Through Coss' sinewy yet supple tone, her improvisations unfold at a pensive pace with enough space between the notes to suggest a certain maturity - someone who's arrived at a hard-fought peace within herself.

"There have been a lot of times in my life when I could have gotten sucked into negativity," the Seattle native said. "I've realized over time that what you choose to focus on an become the center of your thoughts. I don't want to underplay the realities of what depression is for some people because that's not a choice that people make. But ["Happiness is a Choice"] is more about how we can shape our thoughts to change our situation and our reality. And it's about being grateful for things that are positive in your life."

Another highlight on the disc is the driving "Breaking Point," on which Coss pairs her tenor saxophone with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt at the beginning as they zoom across guitarist Alex Wintz' counterpart motif before she crafts coiling unison figures with the guitarist. On the lurking "Perspectives," Coss' passages writhe through Pattishall and Wintz's intertwining accompaniments. Elsewhere , the winsome medium-tempo ballad "Almost My Own" features a memorable, delicate bass solo from Douglas.

After playing with such jazz heavyweights as Clark Terry, Caudio Roditi and Mulgrew Miller and releasing her eponymously titled disc in 2010, Coss gained more international acclaim when she joined Pelt's ensembles. She appeared on his 2013 disc, "Water and Earth," and 2014 disc, "Face Forward." Pelt was impressed by Coss commitment to grow as a musician. " IN the time we spent together, she'd turned into a strong improviser and a terrific foil for my personal sound," Pelt said. "She knows how to listen and blend easily, which is something that I talked to her about in depth before we stared playing."

Coss explained that her stint with the trumpeter helped sharpen her ear training and self-awareness within an ensemble: "He taught me to know when not to overplay or when my solo is actually over - and how to shape the music and listen to what it needs," she said.

A no-fills saxophonist with an undeniable sense of swing, Coss attributes much of her approach to her upbringing. "In Seattle, the feeling of swing is so important," she said. "My number-one priority in playing is making the music feel good. A lot of jazz musicians get caught up in impressing other jazz musicians. It becomes very intellectual and all about the notes. And then the melody suffers; the sound suffers; the feeling suffers. I'd rather have a full house that's enjoying my music rather than five jazz musicians just saying, `Oh, you're so great.`"

"My constant struggle is to get out of my head while I'm playing and just let the music come out," Coss added. " The more I overthink, the worse my music is going to feel."





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