In a time marked by unpredictability and absurd realities, music imbued with spontaneity and improvisation seems especially relevant. Internationally recognized trumpet player and composer-producer-entrepreneur Dan Rosenboom embraces the chaos and seeks to endow us with hope and joy along the way.
Rosenboom, a musician at the forefront of Los Angeles' ever-thriving creative music scene, boasts an international reputation for boundary-pushing projects and relentless productivity. A trumpet virtuoso equally at home in improvised and classical music, the prolific musician has been featured on stages and festivals all over the world, and has been described as “a phenomenon” by the Los Angeles Times.
The highly decorated Rosenboom was born on May 7, 1982 in Berkeley, CA to a composer-performer father who was a trailblazer of early computer music and a mother who was an avant-garde vocalist, designer, and visual artist. From these roots, Rosenboom developed an approach to music and trumpet playing that is highly personalized yet grounded in a global and forward-thinking sensibility.
“From the beginning, I was surrounded by people who were examining and redefining what we consider art to be,” Rosenboom said. “That has had a lasting impact on me, and gave me a true and deep love of exploration through the artistic creative process.”
Early on, the musician also acquired an interest in music that reflects cultural and social movements. “When I was younger, I was always interested in music inspired by what was happening in the world at large,” he said, “and that’s become an ongoing theme in my music: responding to culture.”
Rosenboom’s explorations into avant-garde music and what he calls “the intersection of intellectualism and spirituality” deepened while he earned an undergraduate degree at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY in 2004, and graduate degrees at UCLA and California Institute of the Arts in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
It was at the latter institutions that his love for improvisational music permanently took root, and around that time he entered Los Angeles’ creative music scene. Working closely with LA icon Vinny Golia, and with his own Balkan jazz-rock group PLOTZ, and improv band DR. MiNT, as well as many other projects, Rosenboom’s route into the jazz world was circuitous, to say the least. However, over the last decade, he’s solidified his place as a pillar in LA’s music community, and has produced more than 25 albums, both under his own name and with various bands. He is also the founder of visionary creative music label Orenda Records, whose roster encompasses dozens of artists.
As a composer, he has been recognized with grants and awards from the American Composers Forum, ASCAP, the Meet the Composer Foundation, and the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music. As a bandleader, he has brought his music to such renowned festivals as the Monterey Jazz Festival, Angel City Jazz Festival, Jazzfestival Saalfelden and Jazz em Agosto.
As a Hollywood studio recording artist, he has worked with such notable film composers as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfman, Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard, and many more. Moreover, Rosenboom has performed with many of the elite classical music groups in Los Angeles, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Monday Evening Concerts, Southwest Chamber Music, the Long Beach Opera, and has toured as principal trumpet of the Dallas Brass, and as pop superstar Josh Groban’s trumpet soloist.
Throughout Rosenboom’s myriad pursuits, he has always maintained a sense of optimism and possibility. “I don’t think I’ve ever experienced hopelessness as an artist,” he said. “I try to maintain a sense of hope even when things are very dark - I’ve always turned to art and music as a respite from all that.”
With that said, Rosenboom’s protest band Burning Ghosts tackles socio-political concerns head on. A rousing cross-section between experimental jazz, punk, and metal, he said they “play wild music in reaction to the modern social and political ills we see everywhere. It’s a space to rebel against the craziness.” Rosenboom formed the iconoclastic band in 2015, in response to the police killing of unarmed black men and many other salient social and political issues. To date they have released four albums, one of which was picked up by John Zorn’s iconic Tzadik label.
In sum, Dan Rosenboom is regarded as one of Los Angeles’ top musical pioneers. His stature in the City of Angels led the Los Angeles Times to dub Rosenboom “a musician dedicated to exploration and expression, regardless of anyone’s imagined boundaries.”
Rosenboom’s newest release under his own name, Absurd in the Anthropocene, is in line with his abstract musicianship and virtuous experimentalism but, naturally, pushes the envelope. The record’s inspirations run the gamut from Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman to Frank Zappa, Soundgarden, and Squarepusher, and its title refers to the complicated and often surreal times in which we live.
However, Rosenboom, who also teaches at Pasadena City College, is careful to note that his goal as an instrumental musician isn’t to be didactic.
“I’ve always liked a sense of abstractness and ambiguity in art,” he added. “That’s one of the benefits of addressing complicated subject matter in a non-lyrical framework – you basically have a title to frame your concept, and then people can interpret the sound however they’d like. It gives the audience a participatory role in the experience, as well.”
Arriving January 31 on Gearbox Records, Absurd in the Anthropocene is loaded with a — well, absurd — crew of musicians, including producer and keyboard master Jeff Babko, legendary drummers Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak, and Zach Danziger, renowned bassists Jimmy Johnson, Tim Lefebvre and Jerry Watts Jr., Rosenboom’s longtime collaborator Gavin Templeton and jazz icon David Binney on saxophones, guitarists Tim Conley, Alexander Noice, and Jake Vossler, electronics wizard Troy Ziegler, and horn-playing colleagues Brian Walsh, Ryan Dragon, Juliane Gralle, and Javier Gonzalez. The record’s first session was recorded at Capitol Records with prized engineer Steve Genewick, while the second and third took place at Stella Sound Studios under the direction of revered producer, engineer, and mixer Justin Stanley.
“When I’m playing music with my compatriots, the world feels right, at least for a moment,” Rosenboom said. “It’s about returning to ‘the now.’”
Creating such an ambitious album sounds like a tall order for any musician. But given Rosenboom’s uniquely learnèd upbringing, his impressive resume, and his balance of confidence and humility, it is a vision and sound that this maverick musician has boldly realized.
–Kurt Orzeck, 2019