Jimmy Rosenberg artist

The story about Jimmy Rosenberg is a classic rock’n’roll tragedy. Everything about him was extraordinary, not only the music, the turbulence, the party lion, and his raw force as a guitar player, but also his sensitivity – like Jimi Hendrix and Chet Baker combined. He reached the top before he was 18, but when tragedy struck, it hit hard, and despite a couple of premature attempts to a comeback, Jimmy Rosenberg has not yet recovered from his collapse on stage in 2004. This exceptional talent is portrayed in documentary films, and his nine album releases are amazing snaphots of the young master at work. At his best he played the guitar like no other before him, but there were nights when he could barely play at all. Today he is withdrawn from public life, like a Greta Garbo of jazz. To get a perspective on Jimmy The Kid we can start with two incidents in the Dutch sinti community in his childhood. A turning point in the history of the gypsy music in the Netherlands came in the spring of 1989. Until then the sinti (gypsy) minority was a closed world within the gadjé (non gypsy) society, with only a minimum of interaction. The traditional gypsy world had its own music stars who operated across the borders in Europe, but hardly ever participated in the majority culture. To the flourishing Dutch entertainment industry gypsy music was something foreign and exotic, and definitely not existing in the Netherlands. This changed dramatically with the release of The Rosenberg Trio’s debut album Seresta. Stochelo Rosenberg was an obvious guitar talent already as a child, and around 1980, when Raphaël Faÿs and Bireli Lagrene re-discovered the French manouche guitar style, the 12 years old Stochelo was actually just as good. But when the tempting offers started to come, his father made a wise decision: He let Stochelo wait. Seven years later the time had come, and yours truly was asked to produce his debut album. The rest is history. During the subsequent year the gypsy swing exploded in the Netherlands, and became an integrated part of the national music scene where The Rosenberg Trio became pop stars and role models for an entire generation of Dutch gypsy kids. At this time John Jeremy was producing the marvellous documentary film Django Legacy, catching the moment when the new generation took over from the original pioneers, and Django’s music became a pan-European genre of its own. The youngest musician in the film was the 10 years old Jimmy Rosenberg. Contrary to the protected Stochelo, Jimmy was thrown to the lions at the age of 12. Within hours after his first spontaneous appearance in a burgundy dinner jacket at the Django festival in Samois, he had conquered Paris, and the rest of the world was soon to follow. It was shocking, not so much Jimmy’s technical brilliance, but his free flow of ideas. Without knowing the name of the strings or chords, or any music theory from books, he had figured out it all, and was already in full control over the guitar. He could improvise endlessly, and like a little Mozart, listen to a complex piece of music once and then play it. However, with limited references besides Django and Stochelo he had to invent new solutions all the time. The result was jawdropping brilliant originality. Today, more than 20 years later, it is not easy to understand how different Jimmy was from the rest, because so many of his guitar licks are adapted by guitar players worldwide, but without Jimmy’s genius and flawless performance they may lack some of the magic of the original. From he was 12 until he imploded at the age of 24, Jimmy Rosenberg had an extraordinary lifespan like few others in jazz – it was more rock and roll – a merciless rollercoaster ride between spectacular concerts and fast money on one hand, and sleeping under bridges, countless ODs, hospitalizations, arrests, imprisonments and scandals on the other. Jimmy had great success in New York, and signed some of the most lucrative record/management contracts in the recent history of jazz, but as it turned out, the contracts were either used as options in a greedy game of speculation, or cancelled due to various family/drug problems. As a result our young hero was left in limbus. It was only within the brief openings between these contracts Jimmy could participate in small scale jazz record sessions, which are the only audio documentation preserved for posterity from Jimmy’s early years. While the big guys made big plans above our heads, we were touring in the small jazz clubs. On the road, months at a time, Jimmy was happy – in free flight in front of an ecstatic audience. At the turn of the millenium, a few monthts after the success in Carnegie Hall, Jimmy got one last golden contract, but with the money came an accelration in the drug abuse, and the contract was cancelled. After that Jimmy and I continued for another four turbulent years together before the chemistry went bad, in August 2004. This first chapter about Jimmy Rosenberg is now over, the dust is slowly settling, and the wounds are gradually healing, but Jimmy has silenced. What is left in public is a handful of albums by one of the most amazing guitar talents ever. For more than a decade we were like brothers in arms, but now I can only hope for a miracle – that one day my little brother will return to planet Earth and continue his magic. Jon Larsen