Creative Music and other forms of Avant Garde

Louis Rosen: Love and Ashes

by George W. Harris • November 6, 2023 

One of the lost talents in these days of musical over specialization is the “singer/songwriter”, back in the 1970s, there was a surfeit of them, you could throw a rock from the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights and invariably hit one walking along the streets. Now they’re as rare as an honest politician.

Thus enters Louis Rosen, ready to fill that void with an intriguing collection of originals. He also plays guitar to accompany his Michael Franks-ish easy toned voice. But the enjoyable part of this album is that Rosen frames his lyrics around arrangements that include strings, with violin (Max Moston) and cello (Anja Wood) as well as woodwinds featuring flute (Susan Rotholz), clarinet/bass clarinet (Andrew Sterman), trumpet (CJ Camerieri), sax (Bruce Williamson) and even French Horn (Zohar Schondorf). Teamed with a rhythm section of Dick Sarpola/b and Gary Seligson/dr, Rosen weaves his songs into a tapestry that is reminiscent of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, combining almost free flowing yet poignant thoughts with a lithe mix of swing and folk minstrel.

There’s a gentle sway to pieces like “Prisoner of Hope and Desire,” with guest guitarist David Mansfield adding guitar to the casual charm of “The Day After Christmas Day” and joining with Moston’s violin on the laid back “Not For The Faint Of Heart”. Rosen comes across like a troubadour with his messages, but he frames them in Raphaelesque shades, as Sterman’s clarinet brings a balm to the dramatic “Notre Dame Is Burning” or Woods’ bowed cello frames Rosen’s story on “Dinnertime At Jimmy’s” and the reflective “He’d Rather Not Think About Her”.

There’s even a dash of a Nashville skyline during the Cumberland gapped “A Hole at the Edge of Time”, and droplets of guitar dew  are assuaged by Rotholz’s flute during “Tender Eyes”. Kind of a mix of vintage Shawn Phillips, John Sebastian and Kenny Rankin, mellow in the good sense and fervent in the even better sense. A new minstrel of the dawn .


Posted on May 4, 2023 by Alix Cohen in Cabaret Scenes, and May 6, 2023 in "Woman Around Town: Playing Around Section"   

Louis Rosen: Love and Ashes 

“Louis Rosen is a highly literate singer-songwriter whose musical oeuvre seems set in the late 1960s when the breed was more common.” (From my last review of a CD by this artist.) He’s also a meticulous arranger. Repeated listening finds both music and meaning enriched by collusion of sound. Though not all about the artist himself, songs are again personal. 

“Love and Ashes” is a smoky meditation: The beauty of life and the heartbreak of living are one…I look in the mirror/What do I see?/It’s all love and ashes-to me. Trumpet and flute emerge as if from the other side. Whether you recollect a finished affair or the tightrope of relationships, it’s impossible not to relate. “He’d Rather Not Think About Her” is raw and sad; a haunted, velvet vocal. Strings feel caressed. Breath slows. Rosen seems always to have a foot in shadows. 

“Last Chance Marie” is a story song, a bit Springsteenish, a bit western: Life happens by happenstance/ Say your goodbye/Marie, it’s our last chance… Understated horns and violin lilt. Music describes what seems like the dying Texas town in a black and white movie. Its couple face an anxious choice. “The Day After Christmas Day” looks back smiling, inspired by the artist’s own wedding and trip to Brooklyn: They found a barroom dance floor/Where they tumbled and twirled/They could have been anywhere…this young and clueless pair…It’s sentimental, paternal. Horns make it happy. 

“Notre Dame is Burning”/Flames consume the air/Gargoyles shake and/Timbers quake/Hearts break everywhere…This one’s an anthem for the age; a prayer, incantation of the tribe. The world, the country, your neighborhood, so much one can’t escape seeing if not experiencing- about which we feel impotent: Through the mire/We’ll fight the fire/But where do we begin?…It echoes in the hallowed halls of cathedral earth. 

“Tender Eyes” and “Just a Summer Rain” are painterly ballads. The first, almost whispered, is romantic, wistful. Strings and flute soar above hills, a country landscape that goes on forever…like memories. The second features Haiku-like images. Even regrets are lazy and lovely. Rosen is economic in his visions. Music illuminates as much, if not more than lyrics. 

Love is “Not for the Faint of Heart” should be embroidered on pillows, printed on bumper stickers. The music’s hips move rhythmically: Timing is everything/Timing is everything/Timing is everything… it intones like a mantra. We see both sides of a remorseful mirror. 

The CD is good company. Pour yourself a glass.


Karen Mason and Louis Rosen: 

Ages Since the Last Time

May 16, 2024

By Suzanna Bowling


Karen Mason and Louis Rosen met back in the 70s in Chicago. Karen was a young singer accompanied by a the incomparable pianist-songwriter Brian Lasser. He was close friends with guitarist, pianist-songwriter, Louis Rosen. Mason and Lasser moved to New York and two years later Rosen was there as well. A little over ten years later Lasser died of AIDS. Rosen and Mason have made sure that Lasser’s music is remembered.


Mason and Rosen are back together again celebrating nearly 50 years of collaboration and friendship. The evening is stripped down bare with Rosen on guitar and piano and Mason and Rosen on vocals. Most of the material is Rosen’s songs many from his most recent albums, but added are a few selections by  Lasser, that make you know he died way to soon.


Rosen’s music is what singer/songwriters use to write, full of blues riffs, uplifting swing, folk melodies, jazz cadences and soulful powerful lyrics. It is like an old soul left their words to impart. This night so made me want to hear his newest album “Love and Ashes”. Rosen is a musicians musician.

“A master interpreter… Mason produces a depth of sound and brilliance of color that converge in the work of very few singers!” (Chicago Tribune)

Mason has an authenticity to her voice. She is a storyteller, rich in tone and truly excels on Lasser’s music. She is a belter at heart, but Rosen’s music has her venerable and exposed, which is a new side to her art.

It is always wonderful to watch two artists collaborate,