The Brooklyn Rose Future Jazz Orchestra embraces the present

Joel Oliphint
Brooklyn Rose Ludlow

Originally, the debut performance of the Brooklyn Rose Future Jazz Orchestra was going to be its last.

When Hillsboro, Ohio, native Brooklyn Rose Ludlow came to Ohio State, she started in the engineering program. But in her second year, she couldn’t shake her desire to play jazz drums. “I never tried to go to music school because I didn't think I was good enough. And then I figured out in college that I really wanted to do it and I would try my hardest and make it work,” said Rose, who switched to a jazz composition major.

At the end of her senior year, in the spring of 2019, Rose wasn’t required to perform in a senior recital, but she wanted to take on the challenge anyway. So she recruited nine musician friends and began writing arrangements of songs that influenced her musical path —everything from Norwegian jazz and Stevie Wonder to electronic post-rock act 65daysofstatic. She dubbed the band the Brooklyn Rose Future Jazz Orchestra, and the group of 10 musicians debuted Rose’s arrangements at the Shrunken Head in April of 2019.

It was supposed to be a one-off show, but afterward, Rose’s bandmates kept telling her how much they enjoyed playing the songs, and that they’d love to do it again. “The music was so different from anything else that they were playing in other groups, so they were into it. And I was kind of into it, too,” she said.

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So Rose, who also plays in Columbus indie-rock act the Fears and math-rock duo Quorian, began hatching plans for more shows. She started writing new material, too, along with an orchestral arrangement of “Dark Beast Ganon” from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Soundtrack. “'Zelda' music is probably why I got into music in the first place,” Rose said, though, oddly enough, she didn’t actually learn about the music of 'Zelda' by playing the 'Zelda' video game.

“In the early 2000s, there was this whole scene of indie games — it was the precursor to the modern indie game scene, with a lot of people making these amateur games and passing them around online on file sharing sites,” she said. “So I would play a lot of those because they were all free. But I'd also go through the source files and look through all the game assets, and a lot of them included music from 'Zelda' and 'Chrono Trigger' and 'Final Fantasy' games. … Some of my earliest music memories are listening to illegally ripped MIDI files of old Japanese games.”

The band started polishing its set in early 2020, and then the pandemic hit, putting an elongated pause on all of the group's plans. Then, a few weeks into the stay-at-home orders, bassist Will Strickler sent Rose a remotely recorded performance video from a New York big-band jazz group and said, “We should do this.”

That sent the Brooklyn Rose Future Jazz Orchestra on an adventure that would fully occupy Rose’s time for the next several months. The culmination of that work is available now on YouTube in the form of four performance videos, and on Friday, Jan. 29, the band will release The Brooklyn Rose Future Jazz Orchestra: Quarantine Sessions on streaming services.

Rose had a bit of photography experience from high school, but not enough to begin making professional-grade music videos. So she watched a bunch of instructional videos on YouTube and took some DIY filmmaking courses, learned about color grading and downloaded some free software. She also came armed with audio engineering knowledge gained from studying with Mark Rubinstein at Ohio State.

But now she had to teach her bandmates how to record themselves. “Most musicians are not videographers, so if I have even a little bit of videography experience, I need to provide them some guidance to get the best possible shot that we can,” she said. “And most musicians aren't even audio engineers. … It’s one thing to do all of this in a studio, and a completely different thing to be working with cellphones and $20 USB microphones in an untreated room. We did stuff that I never thought should have worked.”

Rose learned a lot on the band’s first video, “2:30am, i miss your lips on mine,” and she applied those lessons to the next one, “Tokyo Drift: 2051,” a song that led to an international collaboration.

“I was walking around the parking garage near my apartment ... and trying to figure out what I was going to do for b-roll during ‘Tokyo Drift,’ because I loved the b-roll for ‘2:30am.’ I thought that was one of the strongest parts of the video,” Rose said, though she was having trouble finding the right location for the shots she wanted. “Columbus is a very clean city. It's kind of a collection of suburbs. There's not anything that's real intense and gritty. There's nothing that captures the feeling of a cyberpunk, drum-and-bass jazz song. … So I had the idea: What if I actually hit up someone in Tokyo to record this?”

After a lot of searching and a ton of dead ends, she eventually found a Tokyo-based videographer, Barbarian Blue, to shoot scenes of the Japanese capital at night.

For the final two videos, “Okinawa Sunset” and “Dark Beast Ganon,” Rose decided to take her recording rig on the road, shooting footage of her bandmates outdoors in local parks. “It was kind of a wild adventure doing that, because I'm living outside of Columbus temporarily for the quarantine. So I road-tripped in with my backpack full of audio/video gear and would just meet up with each person individually in whatever park I was meeting them. We filmed and recorded their stuff, and then I would mix that in my car to get it ready for the next person. It was a 36-hour process,” she said.

The experience taught Rose how truly portable she could be and still get the look and sound she wanted. “I like to be light in my possessions. I move around a lot, so my mixing setup is just a laptop and headphones, and my recording setup is just two microphones and a little portable interface,” Rose said of her battery-powered rig. “I had been considering whether I need more than that to start getting higher-quality productions, but I think that I do not. I'm very happy with the setup and what we figured out how to do with it.”

Rose meticulously documented the entire experience on her website, and reflecting on it now, she’s amazed at how much she learned. “It's nice looking back and seeing our first video compared to our last video, because the difference in quality is immense,” she said. “It reminds me that I definitely did something over the pandemic. I improved my skills in some way.”

The Brooklyn Rose Future Jazz Orchestra