Roxy Coss Brings Her Vividly Lyrical Sax and Her Edgy Tunes to Midtown
Tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss‘ new album Restless Idealism – streaming at Spotify – takes its title from a Hunter S. Thompson quote. It’s a concept album of sorts, examining dynamics between hope and cynicism, alienation and intimacy. Coss writes vivid, purposeful songs without words and plays with an uncluttered, often smoky tone reminiscent of Harry Allen. She’s got a gig coming up at Club Bonafide (the old Something Jazz Club upstairs space on E 52nd St.) on March 24, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30 PM. Cover is $10.
Don’t Cross the Coss, a catchy swing shuffle, makes an excellent, subtly amusing opening number. See. a lot of people misread Coss’ name. Add to that the subtext of what seems sweet on the surface being every bit as formidable an opponent, and you get the idea. Chris Patisshall’s piano, dancing between raindrops, and Willie Jones III’s martial snare volleys complete the picture.
A rather stern, stark piano figure introduces Waiting, shifting to an uneasy jazz waltz, Coss taking a brooding, steady stroll, eventually circumnavigating the upper registers as the rhythm loosens and the song brightens, a happy ending not foreshadowed. Again, Patisshall’s glittering piano seals the deal before a dancing Alex Wintz guitar solo.
Push bustles along, Jones having fun with some momentary breaks early on, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt sailing briskly through clear postbop skies, then handing off to Coss as bassist Dezron Douglas walks the changes. Perspective opens with a haunting intensity, Wintz’s knifes-edge shards and wary washes in the distance behind Patisshall’s precise, careful resonance and Coss’ wounded, muted melody. The air clears after that, but not much: this trouble lingers.
Likewise, Breaking Point pulses along on a tense clave. On one hand, it’s wickedly catchy, with a chorus that’ll make your spine tingle. On the other, it reflects the album title’s unease, Coss’ meticulously articulated intonation matched by Patisshall’s incisive drive, up to Wintz’s both-hands-on-the-wheel crescendo and Coss’ edgy modalisms as it winds out. By contrast, the ballad Happiness Is a Choice (is it really? If you have enough in your pocket, ok..) gives Coss a platform to show off her balmy side, with some neat noeoromantic flourishes from Patisshall.
Tricky makes a return to sharp, sardonic mode, its hints of dark cabaret and treachery mingled within an otherwise carefree swing, Jones working a slow, coolly artful crescendo as the band vamps coldly. The album winds up with The Story of Fiona, its wry, cartoonish wisps and animated conversation between Coss and Pelt. Melodic jazz in 2016 doesn’t get any better than this.