Swinging either way
Spanish Jazz musician Jorge Rossy is equally at home on the drums or at the keyboard.
Jorge Rossy Photo: Courtesy
There’s a lot of duality to Jorge Rossy’s life and work. For starters,
the 47-year-old Spanish musician began his jazz career as a drummer but years
later decided to use the piano as his principal vehicle of artistic expression.
He will be in the former capacity at Zappa Jerusalem and Zappa Tel Aviv, when he
keeps time for stellar Israeli bass player Avishai Cohen, along with young
Israeli pianist Nitai Hershkovits.
Then there’s the matter of Rossy’s
name. Two of his CDs as leader – Iulianus Suite and Wicca – have him down as
Jordi Rossy, while his most recent release, Iri’s Blues, notes him as Jorge
Rossy. But that is easily explained.
“I’m from Barcelona, which is
bilingual. Jordi is the Catalan version of Jorge. My mother is Catalan and calls
me Jordi and my father, who is not Catalan, calls me Jorge,” says Rossy.” I try
to please everybody by changing my name,” he laughs. “That’s the story of my
life – trying to please everybody.”
With an international career that
spans more than three decades, Rossy evidently has also been doing a good job of
keeping people happy with his musical endeavor. The list of big names with whom
he has performed and recorded includes trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, reedman Paquito
D’Rivera and pianist Brad Mehldau.
This will not be the first time Rossy
and Cohen perform together, as he played on the bassman’s 1998 debut release,
Rossy began investigating the melodic and harmonic possibilities
offered by the keyboard some years before he sat behind a drum set. “In some
ways, the piano was the first instrument I really played. My sister was a piano
player and my father played too, so there was a piano in the house,” he
However, the youngster didn’t take his piano matters too far and
soon opted for what became his initial jazz instrument. “My sister was a serious
classical piano player and I was lazy, so when I was 12 I started with the
drums. I didn’t want to learn music theory and do all sorts of exercises,” he
The drums evidently struck a chord with the teenager. By the
time he was 16, he had already hit the national jazz circuit, playing with the
likes of Wheeler, trumpeter and band leader Woody Shaw and trumpeter Jack
After nine years of pounding the Spanish and European circuit,
Rossy decided it was time to get some education and street-level experience in
the discipline’s homeland and relocated to Boston, where he enrolled at Berklee
College of Music – to study trumpet. That was followed by 20 years of working
from New York, primarily as a drummer, before he returned to Spain to raise a
family and to help nurture his son Felix’s growth and career as a jazz
trumpeter. Felix has played as leader on his dad’s three CDs.
eventually returned to his first instrument. “At 35, I realized that piano was
my main love, and I thought I just have to do it, and it became my priority,” he
Meanwhile, he had a prestigious berth behind the drum set in
Mehldau’s trio, along with bassman Larry Grenadier. But when he turned 40, he
quit the threesome to develop his keyboard skills.
Mind you, it wasn’t
such a sharp departure. “The piano has a lot in common with drums,” Rossy notes.
“And you use all four limbs – hands and legs – like you do with the drums. You
know, you use the piano pedals. You use your legs with piano less than with
drums, but you still use them for coloring and playing around with that. And
both instruments are polyphonic in terms of having several voices at the same
Bebop founder member Max Roach is considered a pioneer in bringing
previously unexplored areas, such as harmony, to the drums. Rossy identifies
with that approach, but that his quest for harmonic discoveries was also
responsible for his return to the ivories.
“You can look for harmonics on
the drums, but you can only do that in response to the melody that is being
played on the other instruments around you,” he explains. “That’s why I love the
piano so much, to be able to act harmonically in the music.”
feature of jazz piano is that while the pianist generally gets to play from the
front of the stage, the drummer normally sits at the rear. But Rossy says he
isn’t interested in grabbing the limelight. “I was at the front of the stage
when I was a trumpeter, so I had a lot of that. But I’m not so hungry for
that today. I haven’t put out a real piano trio album yet [where the piano is
front and center]. I love to comp [accompany], to add harmony and coloring to
what the other players are doing. It’s sort of similar to what I do with the
drums,” he says.
The Avishai Cohen Trio will play at Zappa Club in
Jerusalem on February 28 (doors open at 8:15 p.m., show starts at 10 p.m.) and
Zappa Club in Tel Aviv on March 1-3 (doors open at 8:30 p.m., show starts at 10
p.m.) For tickets and more information: *9080 and www.zappa-club.co.il