The diversity of music styles are a reflection of who we are – music is music, no matter where it comes from. The important thing is that it speaks to you and your true self. If the music I am making doesn’t do this I would seriously have doubts about why I am doing it for. As Chucho Valdez told us – “There are only two types of music – good music and bad music.” The thread is my sensibility, aesthetic and desire to explore.

JK: How did your interest in music first begin?

JR: My interest began as most children’s introduction to music begins – through my parents CD and tape collection. My parents had music blasting around the house all the time, from late at night to often early in the morning. A lot of those albums are ingrained in my inner ear, such as many of the Miles Davis albums, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Jan Gabarek, John McLauglin, Tracy Chapman, Ali Akbar Khan, Ali Farke Toure, the list goes on – world music, jazz, blues, folk, funk. I’m grateful to have been exposed and allowed to love music at such an early age. I was then allowed to take up piano lessons at age six, and later clarinet at age nine and eventually sax at age twelve.

JK: You studied at the Sydney Con. Who were some of your biggest influences at the time – both teachers and musicians in general?

JR: I studied with all the saxophone teachers at the Con – Dale Barlow and Col Loughnan, but then had lessons with several piano players, including Mike Nock and Judy Bailey. I played classical piano in high school so had some facility on the instrument and learnt a lot from working with those two. I also studied with Phil Slater, mainly discussing art, aesthetics and creative practice.

I’ve also been mentored and influenced by a great number of musicians, most notably Jacam Manricks who taught me in high school, Tim Garland, who I studied with in London, Geir Lysne in Oslo, and Dave Douglas, who was the director of the Banff Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. Kiwi born, Berlin based Hayden Chisholm is also a hero of mine, I love his playing.

I’ve been mentored by many artists in Sydney including Simon Barker, who helped me establish Earshift Music, Jonathan Zwartz, Peter Knight, Claire Edwardes and Damien Ricketson, and of course more recently Matthew Hindson, who was my composition teacher for four years whilst I was completing my PhD.

JK: When did your music start branching out to embrace styles like Reggae and Afro-beat?

JR: My music always has been eclectic and diverse. I think that’s a pretty common thing for contemporary jazz musicians all over the world. Music simply represents what we enjoy listening to and the influences that we absorb at a particular time, as Phil Slater discusses, recordings are much like a snapshot in time of our influences. Since I grew up listening to a lot of world music, it’s natural for me to write music inspired by those sounds.

The Vampires formed in 2006, originally playing the music of Bernie McGann and Ornette Coleman. However we were listening to a lot of Afro-Cuban and traditional Nyabinghi Rastafari music from Jamaica. The first album South Coasting resembles a lot of those influences.

When I was at the Con I started religiously listening to Fela Kuti and Bob Marley as I found it to be a good antidote to listening to so much jazz. Following this, I lived with drummer Alan Hicks and trumpeter Nick Garbett for two years and began writing Afro-beat compositions to feature Al’s drumming. Al had been playing in Afro-beat bands in New York and had spent some time in Ghana learning African drumming. The Strides formed out of these jams, and the band’s music developed in various ways until it reached the current format of a 9 piece with three front singers from Barbados, Fiji and Sierra Leone.

JK: How do you find the Australian music scene at present when it comes to performing live?

JR: It is difficult for me to comment on the entire Australian music scene, but Sydney seems to be doing well at the moment. With the lockout laws in action and Kings Cross becoming increasingly gentrified, the late night entertainment is heading to the inner west, with Newtown becoming the new hub of live music. I think the most important thing about creating a scene is a sense of community, and although Sydney can often seem quite disparate, with its geography shaped around its magnificent harbour, the community appears to be resilient and supportive of one another. I would like to see it grow further, and prefer to keep a “glass half full” mentality.

JK: You have travelled to many countries throughout the world. What are some of your most memorable experiences?

JR: Cuba is an incredible country to visit and I am lucky to have been there in 2012, right before the end of the US embargo. Havana’s residents live very little but have an incredible spirit an enormous sense of culture which they vibrantly express through music and dance. Attending the Music Village festival in Agios Lavrentios in Greece was also a highlight. The village square was crowded with people and musicians jamming and dancing all night for a week.

JK: What was the motivation to start your own record label Earshift Music?

JR: I started my own record label so that I could create a platform with creative control and ownership over my releases. More recently I have also released my friends albums on it too, and hopefully will expand it in the future. Several friend have released albums on other jazz labels and encountered problems with releasing it on time, collecting money and having creative control over design and artwork.

JK: Tell us about some of the artists you have on this label?

JR: Earshift was originally set up just for The Vampires and The Strides but now has released music by Mister Ott, Compass Quartet with Bobby Singh and Sarangan Sriranganathan, Nick Garbett’s Garfish and recently my quartet.

JK: In a changing world why is important for artists to release CDs, either on line or in a physical format?

JR: As I mentioned before, an album is a historical document of a band’s performance and composition practice at a particular moment, like a snapshot in time. Its also the best way to promote a band and to have something to sell to people at the end of a show or online. People say physical CD’s are going out of fashion, but we still sell a lot, mostly as merchandise after a gig. Go ahead and buy one of our albums, the money goes straight back to releasing the next one!

JK: Tell us about your latest album Sand Lines and the inspiration behind it?

JR: It features my Sydney quartet, including pianist Jackson Harrison, bassist Alex Boneham and drummer James Waples, with guitarist Carl Morgan on a few tracks. I like to let people use their imagination to interpret the title. Listen to the music and let me know what you think.

JK: You have been rewarded with a number of awards and fellowships over the years. Tell us about some of those.

JR: I just received an APRA Professional Development Award which will help fund a trip to New York and Europe some time next year. I am truly grateful for their generosity.


Sandlines “This latest recording demonstrates Rose at his best and perhaps marks a watershed moment in his composing and jazz career.” Samuel Cottell’s review in Cut Common magazine