Trumpeter Dan Rosenboom has established himself as a catalyst for creative music in Los Angeles, a stylistically diverse artist, and a top-call studio musician. The visionary behind Orenda Records, he’s a producer and bandleader who brings marquee musicians from different scenes together. His new album Polarity presents a dynamic program of original music featuring saxophonist Gavin Templeton, pianist/keyboardist John Escreet, bassist Billy Mohler, and drummer Damion Reid. Produced by Justin Stanley (Prince, Beck, et al), Polarity is a testament to Rosenboom’s strength as a leader and his trust in his bandmates, a versatile quintet propelled by impulse and comfort in the unpredictable.
Polarity emerges from Rosenboom’s improvisational music series “Boom Sessions,” held at Highland Park’s home for pure artistic expression, ETA. Following a performance featuring Escreet, Mohler and Reid, producer Justin Stanley proposed recording at his studio – a newly-formed ensemble with no repertoire and no boundaries. “There’s a deep vibe between the rhythm section and horns,” says Rosenboom. “And Justin’s production is just terrific. He makes everything sound larger than life.”
Initially, Rosenboom planned to improvise the entire recording with Stanley working post-production magic, but a conversation with his band convinced Rosenboom to bring in more structure. “Damion made a compelling case to record my compositions. We left plenty of space for improvisation, but the compositions gave us solid material.”
Rosenboom spent the week leading up to the Polarity recording immersed in Wayne Shorter’s music, performing in the LA premiere of Shorter and Esperanza Spaulding’ s opera …(Iphigenia). Backstage, Rosenboom received sage advice from his long-time hero: “He encouraged me to keep it playful, to bring childlike openness to the recording process, and that spirit of spontaneous creativity is pervasive on the record.”
Album opener “The Age of Snakes” is the centerpiece of Polarity. Floating horns and a hypnotic groove provide a seductive overture to a nearly twenty-minute showcase featuring fiery improvisational surges and kaleidoscopic vignettes as Stanley’s production creates an immersive, lucid-dream soundscape. For Rosenboom, “this expansive journey embodies everything I love about spontaneous creation: surprise, deep listening, fearless exploration, and a collective sense of breath and space.”
The rhythm section ebb and flow with purpose throughout Polarity. Billy Mohler, one of Southern California’s most adventurous bassists, is “a natural fit for what I do,” says Rosenboom. Mohler echoes, “recording with Dan is a very fluid and open process. He writes for the group in a way that lets everyone’s voices be heard while tying it all together with his compositions.” Internationally-acclaimed drummer Damion Reid is everywhere on this album, building towers of rhythm as he supports the ensemble’s construction. “We had such an instant fiery connection,” says Rosenboom.
“Walking Shadows” and “On Summoning the Will” carry a tuneful strength. The latter is Rosenboom’s tribute to his wife Aubre, who overcame breast cancer in 2021. Inspired by her resilience, Rosenboom emotes with long vulnerable tones and Reid’s mallets emphasize fear and unknowing with distant rumbles.
“Ikigai” rises from Rosenboom’s contemplation of purpose as piano phenom John Escreet swipes a solo that twists and turns over the rest of the pummeling rhythm section. He is pliable on both piano and electric keyboards. “Tidal Mirror” is an ethereal jaunt, futuristic and distant, a feel largely created by Escreet’s floating pads. Says Rosenboom, “He intuitively understands my aesthetic and brings incredible creativity to the music.”
On “War Money” and “Minotaur,” Gavin Templeton is downright swinging on his baritone saxophone. Guttural bellows convulse over the striding rhythm section. Elsewhere his alto intertwines with Rosenboom’s stoic lines. “He’s my horn brother,” says Rosenboom. “We complement each other really well and I trust him intrinsically.”
Throughout, Rosenboom’s trumpet leads the way. “A Paper Tiger” features a rapid-fire appearance that bends and weaves with Templeton on alto. Rosenboom’s lines seethe with energy. Says Rosenboom, “I wanted to provide a virtuosic showcase for the band to bare our collective teeth.”
Polarity is the 101st release on Rosenboom’s Orenda Records, which boasts more than sixty artists from three continents and a wildly eclectic lineup. For Rosenboom, it’s all about bringing creative people together to showcase their collective powers of expression. That mission reverberates throughout Polarity, an undeniably captivating listen from some of Southern California’s greatest instrumental talents.