Artemis continues to have a musical conversation ‘In Real Time’
The COVID pandemic brought changes to all our lives and to all professions, especially if one happens to be a musician. The ability to get together in a studio and make a record is something that no group is taking for granted anymore. This month saw the release of In Real Time, the second outing by the group Artemis which was formed by veteran pianist Renee Rosnes about seven years ago. Although I’ve known Renee for 25 years, this was my first opportunity to talk with her about her work. Joining us was one of the band’s newest members, saxophonist Nicole Glover, who astutely explains what In Real Time really means, while Renee talks about how the band got its name (not from her). Enjoy our eye and ear opening conversation—I know I did. And, as per my promise to them, from now on they’ll be introduced by me as a “supergroup,” not a “female supergroup.”
Listen to our conversation, above.
Brian Delp: Where exactly does the title from the new album, In Real Time, come from?
Renee Rosnes: I'm going to let Nicole answer that because she's the one who uttered the words and we discovered at the same time that that was it for the title.
Nicole Glover: One could say we discovered it “in real time.”
In real time. You mean it was a collaboration? But when it gets right down to brass tacks, what does in real time mean? Does that mean that all of you were actually able to get together in the studio without masks on and play together?
Nicole Glover: I think that's certainly one interpretation of it. I think it's one of those titles that you can glean different interpretations of, depending on how you're thinking about it or looking at it. One potential definition would just be what music is. Music is an art form that is temporary, that’s being created in real time and you experience it as it's happening. You can experience it live and you can experience it as a listener. What you're experiencing is essentially a documentation of something that happened in the moment and happened in real time, which is one of the really special things about this particular art form of music.
I think your interpretation is totally appropriate as well. It was a very bizarre last couple of years. There were a number of ways in which our interactions with each other felt very much like they weren't real. There was something that prevented us from being able to experience one another in real time. I think that's part of it as well. Just sharing in the moment together, whether we're playing music or going to a gig.
I think at the time that we came up with the title, we were actually on route to a gig. We were in a car and we were just spending time with each other, being in each other's presence and being in the moment. I think all of those things went into the meaning of the name.
Renee Rosnes: Yes, you couldn't have said it better, Nicole. That's exactly the way I view the title. I think about music as being something that's kind of temporary. Unless it's being recorded, it's gone and it vanishes into the air. A lot of art, if you're talking about physical art, is kind of frozen in time. I think of music as liquid time.
It's like us having a conversation if we're in the van going to a gig or we're on the stage and communicating through our instruments. We're having a conversation in real time. I think it's just magical that we're able to capture the sounds and present them in real time to everyone else.
Artemis has been in existence Renee for how many years?
Renee Rosnes: Well, the first aggregate of musicians that came together, which wasn't Artemis at that point, was in 2016. In 2017, we continued to do a tour, and that was Noriko Ueda on the bass and Allison Miller on the drums. Melissa Aldana was involved along with Anat Cohen and Ingrid Jensen of course. We culminated with a performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, where Don Was, the president of Blue Note Records, happened to hear us that day and invited us to come and record for Blue Note. Since then, of course, Nicole Glover has joined us, as well as Alexa Tarantino on the alto saxophone and flute.
Now you're an original Blue Note artist, Renee. I remember playing your debut album and then of course your albums that you made with the then Blue Note super group, Out of the Blue. How was it for you to return to such an incredible bit of jazz history, Blue Note Records?
Renee Rosnes: It was just so thrilling to be back on the label again. I actually recorded, including the Double Portrait album with Bill Charlap, 11 albums for Blue Note. This is actually my 13th album, including the first Artemis album. As you well know, Blue Note just represents the highest standard of excellence and they're just a central force in the history of jazz and. We just couldn't be in a better place. We're so honored to be on the label. Don Was has done a beautiful job of bringing all the ideals of the founders into the 21st century.
In other words, Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion would be proud. Right?
Renee Rosnes: I certainly hope so.
Nicole, this is probably your first project on Blue Note?
Nicole Glover: It is.
How does that feel?
It's kind of surreal. We all have our different stories of how we got into the music, the first records we listened to. For me, the first records I listened to were Blue Note records. My dad was getting into the music when I was a kid, so that was the sound that I grew up with. That was the sound that pulled me to want to play the saxophone and get involved in this music in the first place. I'm still processing it because it's an absolute honor and just incredible. When I first started playing music, I never really thought that this day would ever come, so it's really wonderful for me.
I'm wondering about something else you're probably processing: When you were asked initially to become a member of Artemis, who asked you, and how did that feel when you got that telephone call?
Nicole Glover: Well, I remember it was Renee. I got an email and it said from Renee Rosnes. And I thought she must have the wrong email but it just said, “This is Renee Rosnes, could you give me a call if you have a moment to chat?” I had been looking up to Renee for years. I've been aware of and listening to Renee's music for a long time. It was pretty amazing and very surreal. I just felt so immediately embraced and welcomed by everyone. I was thrilled. I was absolutely thrilled.
Renee Rosnes: We couldn’t be more fortunate to have you, Nicole.
I've listened to In Real Time, at least several selections from it. And Renee’s absolutely right. You're fitting right in. Of the Blue Note albums that you heard when you were a kid from your dad's collection, were any of them by Wayne Shorter, for instance?
There were a couple of those in the rotation because one of the selections that you perform on the new album In Real Time, that is not an original, is Wayne's classic “Penelope,” which was originally recorded on Etc., back in the mid-60s. But it didn't see the light of day until around 1980 so it just piqued my curiosity. Renee, did you pick that in honor of Wayne? I'm sure you recorded it before he passed earlier this spring?
Renee Rosnes: Yes. Actually, we've been playing a few of his compositions, including an arrangement of his “Beast United.” “Penelope” is just a gorgeous ballad, and the band had been playing it for quite some time now, and it features Nicole which you'll hear on the album. In light of his passing, it does become a very heartfelt tribute from all of us to him and to his memory. Obviously, he was such a magical musician and a visionary thinker and somebody we really all looked up to and revered.
Of course, having had the opportunity to be in his band as well, just added another layer of heartbreak to losing him. But he left such a beautiful legacy behind, and knowing Wayne, he’ll be back, in one form or another to” complete the mission” as he said.
Well, he was always interested in mythological figures. Penelope, for instance, is the wife of Odysseus, who weaves her tapestry so long, that the suitors are just kept at bay until Odysseus can come home and kill all of them, at least according to Homer.
Renee Rosnes: But that was Wayne. He immortalized a lot of women through his music and compositions. There are many—Joanna's Theme, Iska, Miyako, Lilia, Diana, Nefertiti, Ang San Suu Kyi, Ana Maria, The Three Marias, I could on and on. He really loved women and was one of the first major jazz musicians of his stature who really embraced women instrumentalists and had them in his bands throughout the years.
Oh, absolutely. I think of Dianne Reeves, Geri Allen and Patrice Rushen. Then Rachel Z and of course, yourself who played with Wayne. I have always described Artemis since I started putting you on the air back when the first self-titled album came out as the female super group. I'm hoping the day will come when I won't just say female anymore, you know? It can't be denied that you are a collective of women jazz musicians and instrumentalists too, not singers. Is that particularly empowering for you in a different way than when you're leading your quartet with vibraphonist Steve Nelson, or when you're playing with Chris Potter? I'm sure it's different, but in what way is it different?
Renee Rosnes: I don't really look at it differently in terms of gender, even though, like you said, we are obviously a group of women. The reason we're playing together is because of the music and the power of the music and how much we respect one another's talents. That's why we're playing together. If you think about how many all-male groups are in the history of jazz, why should it be any different for a group of women who choose to play together? We're not playing together because of our anatomy. We're playing together because we dig playing together, and we're having fun.
As Wayne, just to tie him into this, told me once, many years ago, “Music transcends gender.” That's where we're at with it. We're out here just playing our music and yeah, we're women. Do you like the music? That's more important.
Well, I do, as a matter of fact. I wanted to cite one thing in particular because I don't know who wrote this particular piece on the new album, but I like it a lot. It’s the tune called “Lights Away from Home.” Did you write that Renee?
Renee Rosnes: No, that is by our bassist, Noriko.
Knowing Noriko, it seems like her personality. It’s kind of a positive bouncy bit of post-modern bop, and I really enjoyed that. It's got a nice feel to it.
Renee Rosnes: She was inspired while camping. She and her husband were in upstate New York, in a small island in the middle of nowhere, where she witnessed a meteor shower. It inspired her to write this piece. She said the next morning she went outside and she had some manuscript paper with her. She sat on the same rock that she was watching the stars falling and she made the sketch of the piece. It sounds very Noriko, just like you said, and reflects her personality.
Nicole, did you contribute any compositions to the new album?
Nicole Glover: I have a song that you may hear in the future. It's not a part of the original vinyl pressing, but we do have something in the can, so to speak.
Renee Rosnes: It’s on the bonus track and it's called “Dealer's Choice” and it's a beautiful composition. It's just not being released on the actual album. We had time restraints because we all played too long.
Well, now that everybody in Nicole's generation is going back to vinyl, time restraints are once again a thing, you know? For all the years, the decades that we've been dealing with CDs, there really were no time constraints. Now that we're back to 33 1/3 vinyl it's something again that you're going to have to consider, I guess.
Renee Rosnes: Yes, at least for the audiophiles. But I guess that's a large group of people who are buying the vinyl or the audio files. They're very concerned about keeping the minutes down to make the quality as high as possible.
Nicole Glover: I was going to say I think it's ultimately a good problem to have because it really shows that we have a large book of really compelling material. Everybody is playing in such an interesting way that we want to be able to feature everybody's arrangements, everybody's compositions, and everyone's music. But we only can do so much of that given the time restraints. We're essentially finding a way to feature as much of the breadth that this band can offer as humanly possible. As you say, it's a good problem.
Renee, let me ask you since I've always been curious about the name of the band, being a student of Greek mythology from a very early age. What led you to choose the name of the goddess of the Hunt and Chastity, among other things, as the name of your band, Artemis.
Renee Rosnes: You know, it came from Ingrid, so I'm not really the right person to, to answer that. We were all trying to think of a good name for the band. She was looking into mythology and first she was into the Vikings and then thought they were raping and pillaging too much, so she went to Greek mythology. The name Artemis just felt appealing because it has the word art in it and also has the word mis in it too.
Valid reasons. All the goddess of the hunt and exploration. It felt like some of the traits just matched the spirit of the band. But like all myths, and you were talking about the Vikings, they have their dark side as well. I mean, Artemis catches Callahan watching her bathe naked and she turns him into stone. She catches Actaeon basically doing the same thing and she turns him into a stag and he gets ripped apart by his own dogs.
I think for women it's very empowering and we seem to be heading into a decade, much like the one you and I experienced in the ‘70s, Renee when that was a decade of female empowerment. I'm sensing another one as we get further and further into the 2020’s. What are your thoughts on that?
Renee Rosnes: I'd like to hear Nicole's thoughts on that because she's in a much younger generation than I am. But I do feel that that is happening. There are so many young players who are female instrumentalists, and male of course, who are just sounding amazing. With social media, I'm able to kind of peep in on people's gigs at Smalls or Mezzrow where a lot of young people play and I'm always thinking, “Wow, who's that? Who's this? Who's that?” You know, because I'm not hanging out like I used to, but I know Nicole's in the thick of it. What's your opinion, on that, Nicole?
Nicole Glover: I agree. We're seeing the tides sort of shifting towards wanting to see a lot of groups that have been historically misrepresented or underrepresented being represented. It takes time and it takes everybody working together to bring about this change and I'm definitely seeing more of it. I'm seeing the energy moving this way and people wanting to hear these voices and these voices saying, I want to be heard.
Ultimately it is up to the people who have the power to make these changes be the one who is listening. Underrepresented voices can shout into the abyss all day, but it's up to people to want to hear their voices to support them. I hope not only that these voices continue to speak, but that they can be heard by people as well.
I was just considering the fact that when Renee and I were in high school and college, X number of years ago, she might very well have been the only female instrumentalist in her class. Was that the case when you were going to school in Portland or were you just one of several females in your class?
Nicole Glover: We were a minority for sure. For a big bulk of my life, I have been the only female instrumentalist in brass since high. I think it does start at a really fundamental level of encouraging young women to pursue arts, to give them that opportunity and to create environments that are sustainable for them throughout the course of their lives. It was challenging in that way. It was a very kind of lonely existence for a, a good part of my life. I am seeing that change happening, at a more elementary level, but II think there's still room to grow.
This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.