About Roxy Coss
New York-based saxophonist Roxy Coss is an award-winning musician, composer, bandleader, educator, and activist. While she most often writes in the post-bop idiom, she is well-versed in the jazz tradition, with her warm and strident tone informing her canny improvisational skills on saxophones, flute, and clarinet. In addition to leading her own bands, Coss is an in-demand side musician who has worked with Clark Terry, Louis Hayes, Rufus Reid, Billy Kaye, and Claudio Roditi, among others. She was a member of trumpeter Jeremy Pelt's group between 2012 and 2014, and toured with the Macktet, co-led by Pelt and drummer Willie Jones III. She has performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, N.Y.C. Winter JazzFest, Melbourne Big Band Festival, Earshot Jazz Festival, San Jose Jazz Summerfest, Ballard Jazz Festival, Jazz Standard, and Jazz Showcase. She has also been a headliner at many clubs. Since 2010 she has been a member of the Diva Jazz Orchestra led by drummer Sherrie Maricle. Coss is the founder of the Women in Jazz Organization. The Roxy Coss Quintet is the first-ever recipient of the Emerging Artist Project Grant from the Local 802 Musicians Union AFM of Greater New York. The band, originally formed in 2008, consists of some of the world’s top young jazz musicians, including guitarist Alex Wintz, pianist/keyboardist Miki Yamanaka, bassist Rick Rosato, and drummer Jimmy Macbride. On the strength of her 2016 Origin album Restless Idealism, she was awarded an ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award. Her 2018 Posi-Tone date, The Future Is Female, made several important jazz best-of-the-year lists and saw her featured in Vanity Fair, Downbeat, New York City Jazz Record, and elsewhere.
Coss was born and raised in Seattle. She started playing piano at the age of five, and learned the basics of music theory, composition, and ear via the Robert Pace method. She picked up the saxophone at age nine, fell in love with jazz at 11, and played in her middle school jazz band. During her time in high school, she toured and performed internationally with the world-renowned GHS Jazz Ensemble led by Clarence Acox. Coss attended William Paterson University on a full scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2008 with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies/Performance. She privately released her 2010 self-titled debut album to local acclaim.
After moving to New York in 2011, Coss was selected to participate in Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead Residency Workshop at Kennedy Center, and at Ravinia's Steans Jazz Institute, where she worked with Rufus Reid, Curtis Fuller, Nathan Davis, George Cables, and David Baker. Coss continued her saxophone, flute, and clarinet studies with instructors/players including Gary Smulyan, Donny McCaslin and Mark Taylor, composition with Rich DeRosa, and flute and composition with Anne Drummond, as well as improvisation with Harold Mabern. She is a highly regarded educator who serves on the Board of Directors for the Jazz Education Network (JEN) and is a jazz faculty member at the Juilliard School, the New School, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY).
Coss joined Pelt's studio and touring group for 2013’s Water and Earth and 2014's Face Forward, Jeremy before signing with Origin for 2016's Restless Idealism, her second leader date featuring Pelt as a guest. It was well-received by jazz critics and resulted in her first of four annual selections as a "Rising Star" in the Downbeat Critic's Poll. Coss signed to Posi-Tone for 2017's Chasing the Unicorn. She and her quintet delivered sometimes startling originals and savvy interpretations of demanding tunes by Joe Henderson ("A Shade of Jade"), Wayne Shorter (Virgo"), and Lionel Loueke ("Benny's Tune"), in addition to pop standards by Willie Nelson and the Beatles. A year later, Coss delivered the strident, passionate, and sophisticated The Future Is Female, a program of ten originals and the first to feature Yamanaka on piano and keyboards. The set was universally acclaimed for its imaginative, swinging hard bop tunes and fleet, blues-infused soloing. While the titles of her compositions reflect active struggle, her music offers the positive side of that outlook. She was recognized as a Rising Star by Downbeat for the fifth year in a row and listed by Jazziz as an artist to watch in 2019. In May of that year she released her fifth album, Quintet, for Outside in Music. The well-regarded set offered re-recordings of eight of her previously recorded compositions in a live setting. ~ Thom Jurek