Daniel Rosenboom is a trumpeter who has released a number of compelling albums in the last few years, and is also trying to grow the Los Angeles creative music by curating live shows and launching his new label, Orenda Records.
In addition to this interview, we recently reviewed Daniel’s latest album, Fire Keeper.
How did you get to where you are? Tell us about your history.
I was born into an environment of artistic experimentalism. My father, David Rosenboom, is a pioneering avant-garde composer, and my mother, Jacqueline Humbert, is a wonderful avant-garde vocalist and a central member of the late Robert Ashley’s opera company. From the very beginning, I was continuously surrounded by music, art, and people that pushed the boundaries of aesthetic and embraced a spirit of adventure when it came to creativity.
As far back as I can remember, I was drawn to music. I started studying classical piano when I was 4 years old and picked up the trumpet when I was 9. My very first trumpet teacher, Wadada Leo Smith, helped me find a personal sound on the instrument, but at the time I was too young to really appreciate the gravity of his teaching. Nevertheless, I fell in love with the trumpet, but I remained mostly interested in classical music.
All the way through college, I was enamored with classical music, and especially contemporary classical music. Something about the marriage of that sense of experimentalism and adventure with the precision and craft of classical techniques really inspired me – and still does! However, by the time I was finishing my undergraduate studies at the Eastman School of Music, I was searching for something more individual, more personal, for my own career.
I returned to California to study simultaneously at UCLA and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and began experimenting with my own musical voice. Studying, and ultimately playing with Vinny Golia really opened my eyes to the world of improvised music in a way I hadn’t really experienced before. I dove deep in that direction, and it’s carried me through ever since.
At the same time, I started playing in various bands that incorporated lots of elements of rock, blues, jazz, and especially Balkan music. I joined the hardcore Balkan jazz-rock band PLOTZ!, which is still one of my favorite musical projects, and fell totally in love with odd dance rhythms and Balkan modes. Between this group, and many other genre-bending projects I started to synthesize, albeit unconsciously, an aesthetic that, to me, is truly genre-less.
I like to make music that is a natural amalgamation of all the various things I enjoy – music that takes the range of modern sonic influence and naturally coalesces into something original.
On your most recent release, Fire Keeper, there are clearly jazz and classical influences. However, upon first listen, the name that jumped out at me was Frank Zappa. How heavily did Zappa influence this recording?
Frank Zappa is absolutely one of my all time heroes. Both musically and intellectually, he represents everything I aspire to. Well, almost everything! But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that his music directly influenced this recording. Let me explain…
My love for Zappa’s music has gone to level where it’s essentially internalized. It’s just a part of the way I hear music in my mind. So, when I go to write anything, there’s Zappa somewhere in the stew. But there’s also Beethoven, and Led Zepplin, and James Brown. There’s Stravinsky, and Chopin, and Bach, and Palestrina, alongside Nirvana, Meshuggah, Snoop Dogg, and all the other music that I love.
I rarely sit down to write something and imagine combining two distinct influences or aesthetics for the sake of combining them. I can only write what I hear, an what I hear is some kind of swirling cloud of influences and information that comes out as something personal. And influences or combinations of style are incidental. There are certain consistencies for sure, but that has more to do with the kind of rhythmic styles I like, the kind intervallic or modal relationships I like, or the kinds of sonic textures I like.
So, yes, Zappa is a huge influence – but not necessarily a direct one.
How did you put together the band for your quintet?
This band is made up of musicians and friends that I’ve known for almost a decade. We’ve all played together in a variety of other contexts, though never together in this configuration. Gavin Templeton and I play almost constantly together in all sorts of different groups. We’re a trumpet/alto pair for sure, and have an intuitive understanding of each other’s playing that goes very deep. Alexander Noice and I have played together in various contexts since 2005, and with Gavin as well in Vinny Golia’s Sextet and our improv-rock group, DR. MiNT. Kai Kurosawa and I used to have a trio that played regularly and have done many other projects together. Dan Schnelle and I have played in a larger ensemble called the Industrial Jazz Group since 2005 and have toured a lot with that group.
This group initially came together as an experiment, but quickly proved to be a potent mix of characters! Sonically, I love the combination of Alexander’s guitar and electronics sensibility with Kai Kurosawa’s bear trax (two-handed tap guitar) and electronics prowess. They’re a powerful and super unique combination that provides three layers of guitar-ish texture, but with the ability to span an enormous range of soundscapes. Kai’s sound often almost sounds more like a keyboard than a guitar though, and provides an almost rolling quality to the bass, which I really love. Dan Schnelle is a fiery drummer with a totally refined jazz sensibility. What I love to hear is how his jazz chops inform his approach to more rock styles. It’s a really unique sound and it provides an almost fleet quality to grooves that might otherwise be too heavy or bashing. But he can totally bash when necessary! Alexander Noice is, simply put, one of the most creative, inventive, and downright badass guitar players on the planet, and we’ve done so much together that he’s total go-to choice for me. This modified power trio rhythm section provides an awesome bed of sound for the horns to ride on, but can also interplay in both linear and textural ways that are unique to this group. Gavin Templeton and I are nothing less than a team. Our sounds compliment each other beautifully, his improvisation is absolutely riveting, and he’s one of my best friends. Again, a no brainer!
With a group like this, I feel like I can write anything and they’ll eat it up! It’s a very liberating feeling as a composer and bandleader to have a group that will dive headfirst into some really challenging material, internalize it, and really make it their own.
Putting together a group always comes down to the way people vibe together though. There are some unlikely combinations in this mix, but it works beautifully, and pushes us all to grow together. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful!
Tell us about the Los Angeles creative music scene. What is going on in the area and how are musicians getting the word out?
I feel like there is an incredibly vibrant energy in the Los Angeles creative music scene right now. There’s a huge range of really compelling work going on, and there’s actually a real audience for it. The jazz scene is actually growing quickly, and a lot of reputable artists are moving here because they appreciate the energy. I’m seeing more and more young people in the audiences at jazz and contemporary classical concerts, and the underground electronic scene is exploding! There has always been a strong indie rock scene here, but there are more and more truly different and creative bands coming out all the time. It’s literally like a dartboard – pick a genre and you can hit some incredibly creative and compelling work happening!
One thing that has always been difficult for the independent artists in Los Angeles is getting our work seen by the larger global audience. Too often people look to New York as the artistic Mecca for America, and while it is great, it’s not the only place to find great work. The online world of blogs and music showcasing has helped artists get the word out, but it’s still a big challenge.
In the beginning of 2013, I co-founded an arts collective called Creative Underground Los Angeles, with the hopes of creating a platform to showcase really creative interdisciplinary work to the larger world. We’re still in our early stages of development, but I think we can help bring some of the amazing work that’s happening here on the ground floor to a greater public. Because it’s here and it needs to be seen!
My hope for Orenda Records is that it will be a home for all sorts of creative music and artists. I’m inspired by labels like Tzadik, ECM, and Nine Winds, and would like to provide a new generation of creative musicians, especially from Los Angeles, a place to showcase their work. We already have 11 artists slated to release albums this year, and they are all some of the most creative artists Los Angeles has to offer, including Cathlene Pineda, Gavin Templeton Trio, Walsh Set Trio (clarinetist Brian Walsh), Falsetto Teeth (Alexander Noice’s band), Jon Armstrong Jazz Orchestra, Jonathan Rowden Group, Gurrisonic (drummer/composer Jose Gurria-Cardenas), Matthew Yeakley, Michael Mull Octet, and more!
What are your plans for the label going forward?
Our main aim is to showcase truly creative and inspired music that is made with passion and love and that embraces what I like to call “the ritual of listening.” What I mean by that is we want to present music that is about taking the listener on a journey and providing them with a potentially transformative experience. We want to present music that grips the soul and takes you somewhere new.
Lofty terms aside, this actually directly affects our entire business model. We want to reach people who embrace the ritual of listening – who enjoy taking the record off the shelf, admiring the artwork, putting the record on and actually listening deeply. Sure, there’s always a place for background music, but that’s not our goal here. On a business level this amounts to presenting our releases in beautifully packaged limited editions, keeping inventory low and quality high. We want to reach the audience that cares about owning the physical product, and create collector’s edition products that are truly worth owning. We’ll be pressing vinyl very soon and hoping to reach that community of collectors as well.
Essentially, we are making music for people who really seek the transformative experience through listening. And we are shaping our business entirely around that philosophy.
Any other upcoming performances or releases to tell us about?
Well, the biggest performances on the horizon are appearances with the Fire Keeper quintet at the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Angel City Jazz Festival. We’re very excited to be performing at these prestigious events, and are hoping to springboard from those to more festivals around the world.
In terms of Orenda releases, we’ve got a lot coming down the pipeline. We just released the Jonathan Rowden Group’s debut, Becoming, will be releasing Falsetto Teeth’s Boiling High Idol on June 3rd, Jon Armstrong Jazz Orchestra’s Farewell on July 5th, Gavin Templeton Trio’s Some Spinning Some At Rest on August 1st, and finalizing release dates for several other in the works. And it’s looking very probably that I’ll be releasing a double disc (or possibly box set) of my own work from live performances several different “special projects.” So, you could definitely say that 2014 has been and will continue to be filled with excitement and music!