Hailed by Downbeat as having "...a bold sound, unmistakeable sincerity and conviction", RENT ROMUS "swings like death and hell" according to the late Danish writer and producer Jack Lind. Born in the great north of upper Michigan and growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Romus' work on the saxophone has been dubbed “ferocious” by the San Francisco Weekly and “central to the creative music world of the West Coast” by writer jazz critic Frank Rubolino. From his very beginnings as a student of jazz while being exposed to the twilight tutelage of Stan Getz he found himself drawn to the outer realms of Sun Ra and Albert Ayler, as well as Derek Bailey and Merzbow.
He runs the collective ensembles the Lords of Outland as well as the Life’s Blood trio. Romus has recorded exploring improvisation and composition in a wide variety of musical settings on over 35 albums both as a leader and sideman which have included Chico Freeman, John Tchiai, Vinny Golia, Thollem McDonas, Stefan Pasborg, Dave Mihaly, James Zitro, Kash Killion, Jon Bridsong, Jim Ryan, and Ernesto Diaz-Infante. With over 25 years of D.I.Y. music production, performance, and curation he runs Edgetone Records a label for many forms of improvisation and experimentation. He is the founder and Executive Director of Outsound Presents under which curates the bi-weekly SIMM Music Series at the Musicians Union Hall, the weekly Luggage Store Gallery New Music Series, as well as annual Outsound New Music Summit, a creative music festival held every summer in San Francisco.
photos by Peter B Kaars click the photo for press copy
RENT ROMUS saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, music and performing arts producer, and community leader currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Romus began playing piano at the age of five until he was thirteen when he decided to play the alto saxophone, which his mother also played. In 1982 and 1984, Romus attended the Stanford Jazz Workshop summer programs where he participated in master classes lead by Stan Getz, Bruce Forman, Eddie Moore, and Dizzy Gillespie. Romus’s exposure to Stan Getz was a pivotal moment in his early development where Getz would ask him to find a mirror and work on his tone watching his embrasure as he played. His pivotal experience with the tenor saxophonist was when Getz picked up his horn and joined him in a rendition of the song "I’ll Remember April" during a master class. When Romus was sixteen years of age, his first experience in curation was hoisted upon him after his high school teacher Dick Goodrich quit his job leaving him in charge of a 17-piece big band called the North Area Youth Jazz Ensemble (NAYJE). From 1987 - 1991 he attended the University of California at Santa Cruz. While at college he led the band Jazz on the Line which he had founded in 1984 that served as a vehicle for the member’s compositions and performances.
Between 1989 and 1994 Romus produced three albums with Jazz on the Line including ‘’In the Moment’’ with tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman. Other performing members during the group’s history included saxophonists Michael Sidney Timpson and Dan Magay, pianist Stephano DeZerega, trumpeter Jason Olaine, vocalist Anna Gurski, and drummer Ben Leinbach. Other guest artists included drummer Steve Rossi, bassists Ravi Abcarian, Corin Stiggall, and Ernie Provenchure. After graduating from the University of California in Santa Cruz in 1992, Romus worked odd jobs before moving to San Francisco in 1993 where he formed a trio with drummer James Zitro and former Sun Ra Arkestra cellist Kash Killion, originally called the RKZtet and later dubbed the Lords of Outland. In 1995 Romus changed personnel of the group to include his long time associate Jason Olaine along with drummer Andrew Borger and bassist Vytas Nagisetty (aka Brock Lee). In the summer of 1995 and 1996 Romus toured in Denmark with pianist Jonas Müller , drummer Tomas Barfod, drummer Stefan Pasborg which later lead to his 1999 recording with Pasborg and bassist Jonas Westergaard as the Blood Motions Trio. In 1997 Romus performed and recorded with Jon Birdsong, Dave Mihaly, and guest tenor saxophonist John Tchicai known best for his work with John Coltrane and Albert Ayler in the 1960’s. In 1998 Romus worked with instrument inventor Tom Nunn, cellist Doug Carroll, guitarist Joel Harrison and drummer Dave Mihaly. This formation focused on a set of compositions inspired by the writings of author Philip K. Dick.
In 2001 Romus reinvented the Lords of Outland with bassist Bill Noertker, drummer Dave Mihaly and the late trombonist Toyoji Tomita, and later that year recorded Avatar In the Field a tribute to the late saxophonist Albert Ayler. In 2002 Romus began working with poet/musician/artist CJ Borosque whom he later married. Together they produced The Metal Quan Yin (destinations suite) with an expanded group that included vocalist Jesse Quattro, and Andre Custodio based on her self published book of the same name. That same year also marked a shift in Romus’ musical exploration branching out into complete free improvisation when he along side guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante created The Abstractions a collective ensemble that ranged in size from two to ten players. The group toured the west coast of the United States in 2002 and 2004 and released three recordings and included Jesse Quattro, Scott R Looney, Bob Marsh, Philip Everett, Sandor Finta, CJ Borosque, Ray Schaeffer, Lance Grabmiller, Alwyn Quebido, and Dina Emerson. In 2006 Romus toured through the midwest of the United States performing in St. Lois Missouri, Urbana Illinois, Detroit Michigan, and Columbus Ohio with stops along the east coast to Philadelphia and New York City with composer and pianist Thollem Mcdonas and drummer Jon Brumit as the Bloom Project. They went on to release two more albums in 2007 and Sudden Aurora in 2009. In contrast to the Lords of Outland, Bloom Project featured a more sparse melodic repertoire. During that same year Romus shifted the roster of the current Lords of Outland with drummer Philip Everett, bassist Ray Schaeffer, and CJ Borosque on no-input effects pedals mixing harsh noise and free improvisation and producing recordings to present day.
In 2010 he released his first album with strings featuring the The Emergency String (X)tet, an amophus string ensemble loosley lead by cellist and muiltiinstumentalist Bob Marsh from San Francisco that changes membership on a regular basis. That same year Romus' suite of music "Edge of Dark" inspired by Frank Herbert's science fiction Dune novels was recorded with guest work by multi-reedist/saxophonist Vinny Golia, and was released in 2011 on Nine Winds and Edgetone Records. The music focused on early compositional processes by Romus incorporating a more acoustic approach to the music with CJ Borosque adding a third horn on tumpet and opening up solos to inlclude much of Vinny Golia's cache of reed instruments. Continuing this exploration of a balanced approach to acoustics and electronics Romus released Thee Unhip again with the Lords of Outland consisting featuring a cross section of older and new compositions including compostions inspired by Kraken Mare discovered on Saturn's Moon of Titan by the Cassini space probe and a dedication to Italian horror director Amando de Ossorio.
As a Curator
From his first experience as a young music producer in 1984 with the North Area Youth Jazz Ensemble (NAYJE), Romus continued to produce and curate performances and presentations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Romus runs Edgetone Records launched in 1991 originally a vanity label to support his recordings and later in 2001 began releasing other artists primarily from the San Francisco Bay Area crossing many forms of improvised and experimental music. He was the Executive Director of Jazz in Flight from 1996-1997 a non-profit jazz presenting organization based in Oakland California until it disbanded in 2001 which booked creative touring and local performing musicians at Yoshi's (jazz club) in Oakland California. He founded Outsound Presents a non-profit artist based organization and serves as the Executive Director while curates The SIMM Music Series at the Musicians Union Hall as well as the Luggage Store Gallery New Music Series in San Francisco. Romus co-founded and was the Director of Promotion for the SFAlt Festival in 2002-04 which lead to him create and organize the annual Edgetone New Music Summit, a national experimental music festival held in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. The festival is now produced under the Outsound Presents banner which continues at the present under the title, Outsound New Music Summit.
GRANTS & AWARDS
2003 recipient Meet The Composer Grant, Meridian Gallery Series, San Francisco, CA
2006 recipient Meet the Composer Creative Connections Grant, Bloom Tour, Bowerbird Philadelphia, PA
2013 recipient New Music USA Metlife Creative Connections Grant, Outsound New Music Summit, San Francisco, CA
Selected Performance locations
San Francisco CA, San Jose CA, Oakland CA, Portland OR, Los Angeles CA, San Diego CA, Olympia WA, Ashland OR, Bakersfield CA, New York NY, Brooklyn NY, St. Louis MO, Champaign IL, Columbus OH, Detroit MI, Philadephia PA, Chico CA, Sacramento CA, Stockton CA, Copenhagen Denmark, Arhus Denmark, Karbaksmin Denmark, Tijuana Mexico
Discography As a Leader/Co-leader:
Thee Unhip, Lords of Outland, Nine Winds 2012
Cloud Knitter Suite Live, Lords of Outland, Edgetone 2012
Edge of Dark, Lords of Outland with Vinny Golia, Edgetone 2011
Emergency Rental, The Emergency String (X)tet meet Rent Romus, Edgetone 2010
XV (the first fifteen years 1994-2009), Lords of Outland, Edgetone 2009
Sudden Aurora, Bloom Project with Thollem Mcdonas, Edgetone 2009
GRID, Ministry of Rites, Edgetone 2008
Thundershine, Jazz On The Line with Chico Freeman (re-issuse), Edgetone 2008
Prismatic Season, Bloom Project, Edgetone 2008
You can sleep when you're dead!, Lords of Outland, Edgetone 2008
Bloom, Bloom Project with Thollem Mcdonas, Jon Brumit, Steven Baker, Edgetone 2006
Culture of Pain, Lords of Outland, Edgetone, 2006
Reverberations of Spring Past, Pax, 2006
The Foolkiller, Tri-Cornered Tent Show, Edgetone, 2005
Tri-Cornered Tent Show LEGION OF DAGON, Edgetone, 2004
Novo Navigatio, The Abstractions, Edgetone/Pax Records, 2004
ARS VIVENDE, The Abstractions, Edgetone/Pax Records, 2003
Sonic Conspiracy, The Abstractions, Edgetone/Pax Records, 2002
The Metal Quan Yin, Lords of Outland with poet C.J. Reaven Borosque, Edgetone, 2001
PKD Vortex Project – New Music composed inspired by the Stories of Phil K. Dick, Edgetone, 2001
Out of Town, Guinea Pig, Edgetone, 2001
Avatar In the Field – A Tribute to Albert Ayler, Lords of Outland, Edgetone, 2001
Blood Motions, Life’s Blood Trio, Jazzheads Records, 1999
Adapt…or DIE!, Lords of Outland with John Tchicai, Jazzheads Records, 1997
You’ll Never Be The Same, Lords of Outland, Jazzheads Records, 1995
Jazz On The Line with Chico Freeman, In The Moment, Edgetone Records, 1994
Jazz On the Line, no boundaries, Edgetone Records, 1991
Jazz On The Line, Dark Wind, Edgetone Records, 1988
Discography As a sideman:
C.O.M.A. California Outside Music Associates, Edgetone/Jazzheads Records, 2004
Jim Ryan's Forward Energy CONFIGURATIONS, Edgetone, 2002
Moe!kestra!, TWO FORMS OF MULTITUDES, Edgetone/Pax, 2003
Paris Slim with Joe Lewis Walker, Sonny Rhodes, Bleedin’ Heart, Globe Records, 1996
In addition to working within various groups and setting, Romus has also produced multimedia events utilizing dance, theater, literature, and painting. Some of these events include:
Lords of Outland
Executive Director of OUTSOUND.org
Owner & Artistic Director: Edgetone Records
Director, The Annual Outsound New Music Summit
Co-Curator, SIMM Music Series in San Francisco
Co-Curator, Luggage Store Gallery New Music Series
The Illuminated Corridor Project, new music set to independent or obscure film
“The Proceedings Suite #1” based on new literary writing of Dr. Charles Poncé
“Rent Romus’ A Dark Spring in San Francisco” and “Ravens’ Gate”, “Children of the Black Hole” based on the Dune series by author Frank Herbert
“VORTEX MUSIC” Improvisations of Sci Fi Author Phil K. Dick
Annual Edgar Allan Poe Show:
The Sonic Scream String Ensemble with the readings of E.A. Poe
The Metal Quan Yin, "Destinations Suite", music based on the writings of poet C.J. Reaven Borosque
“Jazz and Improvised Dance with Maia Heiss” @ Kuumbwa Jazz Center Santa Cruz
“Jazz and the Art of Sharon Moore” @ SF Community Music Center
Press & Interviews
Tokafi.com, April 8, 2006 Münster Germany
Top Pick Stockton Record December 2006
""Romus' sax rekindles that flame egregiously, thematic sketches becoming instant excuses for the instruments to coalesce into a gruelling mass of Pollockian sonic painting that plumps on the brain and self-adjusts until your synapses are completely disjointed."
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
"Rent Romus and his Sax are the rudder, guiding the way....his frenzied summersaults lead the band ever upwards towards the sky."
Tobias Fischer, Tokafi
"...his (mostly) gentle phrasing underlining a potential, yet still non-existent rebellion while transmuting the predominant tides into deformed film-noirish soundtracks, with rain pouring down on the trash amassed in dark alleys."
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, Rome, Italy
"Rent remains a force for me, his restraint as powerful as his melodic attacks."
Thurston Hunger, KFJC 89.7 FM Los Altos, CA
“Swings like death and hell.”
Jack Lind, Det Fri Aktuelt, Copenhagen, Denmark
“...a ferocious improviser.”
San Francisco Weekly
“...dynamic, and monstrous.”
Sam Prestianni, Oakland Montclarion
“Overall, Romus’ performance was raw and full of musical vigor, which inspired a higher order and left the audience with a smitten effect.
Thorbjorn Sjogren, Politiken, Denmark
“Romus has been central to the creative music world of the West Coast for a number of years, and he keeps stretching the boundries of originality with each new release.”
Frank Rubolino - onefinalnote.com/Cadence
EDT 4028– Culture of Pain
"This album will make you purr and howl; it's a right cross flattening that decrepit opponent named "inane jazz". I'll shake the hand of those club owners who will have the nerve of booking the Lords of Outland; meanwhile, a copy of this CD will work wonders if you suffer from commercial music depression."
-Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
"...leaves the listener with an ironic smile throughout the disk...Rent Romus yields homage to one of his most outstanding influences – Albert Ayler, whose ghost strolls cheerfully to the disk, materializing in the retexture of Universal Indians and Saints...Culture of Pain is a big artistic success, a visionary event in the world of improvised jazz."
-Eduardo Chagas, Jazz e Arredores
"...the whole thing thunders on like giant hurricane. For the die hard fans..."
-Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
"A cavalcade of throat-pounding sound and mind-bending ideas."
-J. Worley Aiding & Abetting
EDT 4001 – Avatar In The Field– a tribute to Albert Ayler
"...a remarkable success...[Romus'] voice on saxophone covers an amazingly wide spectrum of the vocalizations which Ayler used to redefine jazz."
-Nils Jacobson, All About Jazz
"Rent Romus is certainly carving a distinctive musical niche for himself.
Using a full fruity tone with a vibrato that's almost broader than Ayler's..."
-Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly
"...intensity that approaches the level of savage at times...a most highly recommended sonic experience!"
-Rotcod Zzaj, IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION
"...the overall album paints a more complete portrait of Ayler as the artist and hero..."
-J. Worely, Aiding & Abetting
"His band, dubbed Lords of Outland, match him in both tone and spirit on this disc...this tribute is worth hearing." Robert Iannapollo, Cadence
EDT 4002 - Guinea Pig, - Out of Town
"...consciously toys with boundaries, defining them and then post-haste ripping them to shreds."
Nils Jacobsen All About Jazz
"The results are somewhere between Coltrane's Village Vanguard live recordings ... and, um, freaky deaky free jazz...This stuff blazes a hot trail in the night."
J. Worely Aiding & Abetting
"This Rent guy is a character & he's one helluva reed player!"
EDT 4003 - PKD Vortex Project
"Another killer release from sax shaman Rent Romus, this time it's music inspired by the writings of Phillip K. Dick. Wide-ranging and mind-bending live recordings. Romus should by now be as well-known as David S. Ware or John Zorn, so catch up, comrades."
Cactus, KUSF San Francisco
"As a tribute to the imagination of the "dark master of pulp fiction," this disc does Dick justice. "
Nils Jacobson AAJ
"Romus has crafted an appropriately electric program as an homage to one of the more forward thinking writers of the genre...this is aggressive, brutal music."
Robert Iannapollo, Cadence
"...literal human screams, echoing Twilight Zone-style guitar riffs -- which often sound like an uneasy marriage between lo-fi grunge and arena rock -- plus outer space organ tones which may have migrated over from Sun Ra's Arkestra. "
Ken Waxman Jazz Weekly
"an album of uncompromising (and still most invigorating) music."
J. Worely Aiding & Abetting
"'PICK' of this issue for 'best conceptual improv experience of 2001'"
JH 1136 - Rent Romus’ Life’s blood trio
- Blood Motions
"[Romus] is most impressive on "Better Git". Using his best Hank-Crawford- out-of-John- Handy tone, he manages to play both the solo and the backing figures from the original performance. "Lunch" is treated unusually as well. Starting with a fusty, Dixieland sound he doubles its concentration by playing alto and soprano at the same time, at one point even getting involved in duetting with himself."
Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly
JH 9503 - John Tchicai with Rent Romus
- Adapt…or DIE!
“Romus and Tchicai ignite when pitted together and complement each other’s efforts. Romus’ tone is bold and audacious…on occasion you can hear Ayler’s ghost in his alto playing.”
Frank Rubolino – Cadence
JH 9493 - Rent Romus’ Lords of Outland - You’ll Never Be The Same
“The expansive arrangements of their largely modal and groove-oriented compositions provide Romus with plenty of room to strut his swaggering dynamic and fat vibrato.”
Sam Prestianni – BAM Magazine
“Romus’ quartet recorded live in San Francisco plays like an aggressive version of the Ornette tribute band Old And New Dreams. When so few are making strong statements in music today, You’ll Never Be The Same! Shouts.” Mark Corroto – SOS Jazz
“This is a crazy record, and one that listeners with open ears toward the music of Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman and Rahsaan Roland Kirk (among others) should enjoy…highly emotional music.”
Scott Yanow – All Music Guide/LA Jazz Scene
"The expansive arrangements of their largely modal and groove-oriented compositions provide Romus with plenty of room to strut his swaggering dynamic and fat vibrato." --Sam Prestianni, BAM Magazine
“Freewheeling overlapping fragments, and unencumbered by attitude, the music delivers passion, but not without a wry sense of humor.”
Michael Rosenstein- Cadence
"Romus' solos served to liberate the music from the group's comfort range . . . particularly noteworthy in Romus' playing is his apparent sense of the tradition of jazz." -- Robin L. Hammer, JazzNow Magazine
"Rent Romus on sax . . . the crowd was thinning out by this time, but those who left missed out on a spirited set." --June Stewart, Oakland Montclarion
"Romus sports a broad tone and a record collector's wit." --David Strauss, San Francisco Weekly