Renee Rosnes | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Renee Rosnes

Renee (Irene Louise) Rosnes. Pianist, composer, b Regina 24 Mar 1962. Rosnes grew up in North Vancouver with her adoptive family.

Rosnes, Renee

Renee (Irene Louise) Rosnes. Pianist, composer, b Regina 24 Mar 1962. Rosnes grew up in North Vancouver with her adoptive family. While studying piano with Leslie Janos and playing violin in the Vancouver Youth Orchestra, she was introduced to jazz by Bob Rebagliati, the music teacher at Handsworth Secondary School in North Vancouver. After further piano studies 1980-2 with William Aide at the University of Toronto, she turned exclusively to jazz, working initially in Vancouver 1982-5 with Oliver Gannon, Roy Reynolds, and others.

She moved to New York on a Canada Council grant in 1985, and soon emerged as one of the most gifted jazz pianists of her generation, playing under the particular influence of Herbie Hancock. In 1987 she began playing and travelling internationally with the all-female quartet of tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson and became a member of OTB (Out Of The Blue - see also Ralph Bowen). She also toured in bands led by such major US jazzmen as the saxophonist Wayne Shorter (1988), the trombonist J.J. Johnson (1988), and the trumpeter Jon Faddis (1989). Her own groups have performed at Canadian festivals (eg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, du Maurier Downtown Jazz Festival), in New York, and in Japan. Ensembles led by Rosnes have included trio, quartet and quintet formats, frequently with her husband, drummer Billy Drummond.

Her playing on the album Renee Rosnes, which included duets with Shorter and Hancock, drew praise from Fred Bouchard for its 'exquisite balances of delicacy and power, witty and weighted ideas, assertiveness and deference' (Down Beat, June 1990). A succession of recordings for Blue Note, as leader, drove her reputation higher with each effort: Without Words (1992); Ancestors (1996); As We Are Now (1997); Art and Soul (1999); With a Little Help from My Friends (2001). Life on Earth (2002) explored world music influences with its East Indian, African and Spanish elements, reflecting the pianist's growing awareness of her East Indian parentage. She maintains ties to Canada: her composition "Icelight" on Life on Earth commemorates the establishment of the territory of Nunavut. Deep Cove (2004, CBC) was recorded in Vancouver.

Rosnes's recordings often reflect her abiding interest in classical music. She recorded her own arrangement of Manuel de Falla's Nana; Without Words featured a string orchestra contributing to an overall fusion effect.

Rosnes is one of a few Canadian women jazz musicians to have her own ensembles, and to compose. Among her recorded compositions are the titles "The Storyteller," "I.A. Blues ," "Fleur-de-lis," "North of the Border," "For the Moment," "Malaga Moon," "Nemesis," and "Homeward." She was commissioned to write and arrange for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and Winton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Centre. Robert Farnon arranged her Malaga Moon for orchestra.

Activities 1991 - Present

Rosnes was the pianist for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band from the mid-1990s, and played and recorded with the Canadian ensemble Free Trade (with whom she toured Canada in 1994), and with Native Colours. She has toured Europe and Asia, including Japan, and recorded with the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra. Her lyrical depth has made her in demand with such figures as Wynton Marsalis and Marian McPartland, and she has played often at Lincoln Centre. She is a founding member of the San Francisco Modern JAZZ Collective.

She was briefly artist-in-residence at Humber College in 2002 and has given master-classes. Rosnes moved to New Jersey early in her career.

Awards and Tributes

Rosnes received Juno awards in 1992 (For the Moment), 1997 (Ancestors) and 2003 (Life on Earth). Her recordings won Jazz Report's best jazz album of the year twice: (Without Words, 1993 and As We Are Now, 1998). The former recording was listed in USA Today's top ten of 1993. Jazz Report also named Rosnes pianist of the year 1994 and 1998.

She is acknowledged "as the best Canadian jazz pianist of her generation and one of the few Canadian jazz artists to attain international acceptance" (Ottawa Citizen, 20 July 2001).

Further Reading