Boston based jazz and blues drummer/harmonica player Ralph Rosen has had a diverse career. Currently a core member of the Bruce Katz Band, Rosen has also worked with Bo Diddley, Albert King, Wayne Krantz, George Garzone, Bill Frisell, Billy Pierce, Dave McKenna, David "Fathead" Newman, Rebecca Paris and John Medeski, to name a few. No Secrets is Rosen’s second disc as a leader and features musicians of similar musical minds. Highlighted throughout is the work of two famed teachers at the Berklee College of Music: monster saxophonist George Garzone and trumpeter Greg Hopkins. Adding his voice is Katz on Hammond B3 and for one cut only, guitarist Jon Damian.
Featuring eight of Rosen’s own compositions, along with one tune by Miles Davis and an arrangement of the traditional spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," this disc is all about Rosen’s jazz proclivities as a composer. That is not to say, however, that his musicianship and the musicianship of his cohorts display aren’t also on display. On "Mr. Malochis" Garzone and Rosen, in duet, craft a musical experience full of great interplay and subtle innuendo. Their shared musical association comes through as they find ways to push and prod the other into developing compound musical statements based on motives introduced early in the piece.
Other great tunes include a funky arrangement of Davis’ "Stuff." Katz’s walking bass line is superb as he provides a chordal framework, both under the melody and comping in support of the solos, that is rich in implication more than actual bedrock. Hopkins’ trumpet takes a tack that is full of sequential fun and layered upper chordal partials; with his harmonic concepts it’s easy to see why he teaches at Berklee. Here, as throughout the disc, Garzone shines. More introspective than on some of the album’s other tunes, here he emphasizes descending shaped phrase structures. Katz’s solo works out some avant-garde proclivities before tearing into more mainstream swing concepts at the end.
As a composer Rosen is accomplished, with the best composition being "The Ride Home." The hip lines dart and intersect before opening up into a ripping solo section. Hopkins’ best solo of the disc appears here. He flies, seemingly effortlessly, through a series of permutations of ideas presented in the head before handing off to Garzone, who again creates a work of technical and musical mastery. Rosen’s set playing is superb, but his solo is way too short. While it’s true drummers are, to some extent, always soloing on everything they play, his exquisitely graceful and superb solo shows he has talent beyond compare. It seems like he’s just getting into it when it’s over. A good set played by masters.