José Rossy is a virtuoso percussionist most often associated with the jazz-fusion, world-music sounds he produced with supergroup Weather Report in the early ’80s. He has amassed a body of work that defies “genre-lization.” From symphony orchestras and philharmonics to Talking Heads and Sesame Street, Rossy’s colorful handprint can be found on some of the most creative musical collaborations across a full spectrum of styles over the past 30 years.
José Rossy was only 9 years old and already playing E-flat clarinet with his hometown band in Humacao, Puerto Rico, when his future as a percussionist was foretold. At the beach one day with his family, Rossy was approached by a “wise, elder man” who predicted that the boy would travel far and become famous playing the drums. After a car accident left the boy’s teeth and lips too damaged to continue on the clarinet, his music teacher, Germán Peña , steered young Rossy toward percussion. With an eye for talent and a family legacy in the musical arts, Peña saw something in Rossy. Giving him the rudiments of his first drum kit, Peña continued to shepherd Rossy’s maturing talents through high school and into college, finally encouraging him to audition for acceptance into Pablo Casals’ Puerto Rican Conservatory for Music in San Juan. After just a year at the conservatory, Rossy received a coveted invitation to join the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, where he played from 1972 until 1975, when he followed his fortune to America.
Armed with rock-solid technical training but no equipment, Rossy moved to New York in 1975. From 175 who auditioned, Rossy was chosen to join the R&B group, LaBelle, the namesake group of illustrious Patti LaBelle. Borrowing enough to put together a drum kit, Rossy hit the road with Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendrix, Sarah Dash, Bud Ellison, Eddie Martinez, Carmen Rojas and Tony Thompson in 1977. After the group dissolved, he stayed with Hendrix, Rojas and Martinez, opening for the Peter Gabriel tour. After recording his first album with Nona Hendrix, Rossy spent a few years with Peter Allen on a world tour of his one-man show, “Up In One” and recorded “BiCoastal.” During that time, he became a popular session man, recording with everyone from Bryan Eno and David Byrne to Cameo and Sesame Street.
A member of the elite supergroup Weather Report from 1981 to 1984, Rossy, along with Omar Hakim and Victor Bailey, formed the rhythm section of the group’s third iteration, satisfying founder Joe Zawinul’s deepening appreciation for third-world rhythm, sounds and texture. Rossy recorded three albums with Weather Report and also appears on other Weather Report compilations and collections.
With virtuosity matched only by his versatility, Rossy emerged from Weather Report and employed his diverse skills, touring and recording with Robert Palmer, Sonia Dada and Patti LaBelle, with whom he recorded the Grammy-winning “One Night Only.” A newly married Rossy moved to British Columbia with his wife in 2005. A break from years of touring, he performed and recorded with the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra there between regular trips to New York for sessions and performances.
Upon returning to the states, Rossy completed the few hours he needed for his bachelor’s degree and, in 2007, moved to Eads, Colorado, where he completed a satisfying circle in his musical evolution. As he was mentored early in life by his teacher in Puerto Rico, Rossy now works for the The Kiowa School District, teaching youngsters in grades K–12 to love complex combinations of rhythm and melody.
Among his current projects, which include producing, recording and advising new artists, Rossy performs with Jambón, an R&B group comprised of former members of Sonia Dada, Weather Report and Liquid Soul. The brainchild of legendary keyboardist Chris “Hambone” Cameron, Jambón’s self-titled album was release on May 29, 2009.
José Rossy Drumstick Collection
Current Drumstick Count in Collection: 4.