The beautiful song writing and lush bass, keys, vocal and guitar work of Nick Rosen have become involved heavily into my life this year with the release of Violet. Collecting ten songs that piece together very different paths of the music spectrum and shows one of the widest ranges of influences I have heard on a record in some time. Nick Rosen’s bass work is always a confident feature, regardless if he in an organic electronic world or accompanied in a deep jazz setting. Miguel Atwood-Feruson was responsible for co-writing and arranging many of the songs that appeared on Rosen’s first full length, Into The Sky. Much like Rosen’s new long player Violet, Into The Sky also served as a panoramic view of many places, people and ideas all guided into one harmonious direction. It was a bridge for many cultures to exist under one roof. Violet allows the same visionary connectivity on his first LP to become something even brighter and more involved into the current ethos of the past, modern and future movements of sound.
In the sleeve of the album, the following is written to further emphasize the title of the record. The color violet represents the harmony of the universe because it is a combination of red and blue (Yin and yang respectively). Violet begins with ‘Countryside Prelude’, a duo recording positioned in a very relaxing, earthy and powerful state. Featuring guitarist Josh Lopez, Nick Rosen plays his stand up with the deepest of resonance, something that comes off as completely is remarkable every time I hear it. ‘Blues For Albert’ pays homage to the late and great Albert Ayler, who was a huge influence on the musical growth of Rosen at a young age. As a trio set up, keyboard becomes the guiding voice and serves as a really heavy jazz piece. The drumming from James Williams is phenomenal as he moves through his kit, unrestrained and constantly exploring the tone of his drums in the most smooth manner.
The inclusion of producer, DJ and musician Anthony Valadez was a really welcome treat on the song ‘Eastside/Westside’. Providing drum programming, Anthony Valadez completely alters the vibe of the album and brings everything to the rich state that electronic soul music has become. Nick Rosen switches out his usual stand up to his electric and lays down really solid bass work. Sam Barsh, the key player who accompanies Nick on many songs with Violet, lays down lush, organic lines over the sultry, blissful vocals of Jesse Porter. The overdubbed vocal additions are some of the best parts on this record, moving the music into a very soulful hip-hop state. Nick Rosen’s song writing abilities come to full fruition in the two pieces that he collaborated with vocalist Paris Carney on. Built on the acoustic guitar of Nick Rosen and the lush electric acoustic bass of Greg Garbowsky, the three lend backing vocals to make these some of the most charming on the album.
The highest point of this record for me comes in the title track to the album, ‘Violet’. As what sounds like a deep homage to the sound of Bill Evans, the deep somber mood that the trio of pianist Eli Brueggemann, drummer Dexter Story and Nick Rosen is breathtaking. Eli Brueggemann plays the piano in a conversational type of way that is hard to match with words in terms of the true depth and meaning of each piano stroke. Nick Rosen sounds as lush and vibrant as Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Charles Mingus and any of the other great stand up bassist. This is a composition that dives very deep into the jazz tradition and really pushes Violet to a marvelous state. Nick Rosen’s collaboration with Nick Blocks and Maiya Sykes of the Endangered on the song ‘Hope She’ll Be Happier with Him’ comes right after the title track and ends this album in the wake of a euphoric and enchanted aura. Maiya’s vocals are powerfully soulful with the dark passage way that both Nick’s create with their stringed instrumentation. It’s a very overwhelming song in the presence of so many before it that I found myself repeating the last two songs over and over. Blocks lays down very lush guitar and beautiful subtle overtones that waver in and out like a flickering dying light. The bowed bass work from Nick Rosen blankets the mix with rapturous like tones of bewilderment. Maiya rises out of this darkness and guides the trio into bliss. This is the type of song that raises the hairs on the back of my neck and something I truly live for to experience through sound.
Violet is a record that connects so many points of musical pathways that the representation of it under the color violet is one of the most righteous things that could have occurred to this music. No storyline, history examples or set of characters is needed to describe the emotional beauty that this album evokes. A must hear fusion album on the pivotal Porter Records imprint.
- Countryside Prelude
- Count Your Tears
- Let’s Go Back
- Blues for Albert
- See You Again
- Angel’s Song
- Hope She’ll Be Happier with Him