FACETIME- Dynastic duo: Rosensky-Decker at 12
It's hard to talk about music in Charlottesville without a genuflection in the direction of Miller's. The downtown bar that was once home to Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds is now known as a buzzing Thursday night hotspot where locals and visitors drink down a beer or two and soak up an excellent jazz band.
Thing is, you can also do that on Wednesday.
Mike Rosensky and Jeff Decker are two of the unsung heroes of the local music scene, leading their quartet every Wednesday night at Miller's, and each time they do, extending their superhuman streak: they've been playing the same gig for 12 years now.
"Mike and I started doing this as a duo, just for fun, to pass the time and practice," says Decker, now 42. "It's amazing how the years fly by."
Decker is a doctoral student at UVA, where he teaches music classes and gives saxophone lessons while working on a dissertation about Nat King Cole. Rosensky, 41, is his counterpart on guitar.
It's in their students– a few of whom pepper the audience at Miller's any given week– that they find their challenges. One of Decker's classes this semester is called "Musicianship," a small seminar that focuses on sight-reading and ear training.
"I need to be on top of the material to the point where I'm practicing on my own," he sighs. "Musicianship is a lifelong process."
Decker also says that his private lessons have as much impact as the classes: "If you have an advanced student, it's very challenging week after week to come up with a lesson plan," he says. "If there's someone who is going to be progressing rapidly and staying on top of the material, you need to practice differently."
But Rosensky doesn't see anything remarkable in the fact that he's the music department's go-to guy for one of the most popular instruments around: "Most musicians I know teach," he shrugs.
Nevertheless, maybe it's the parallel educational pursuits they share that make the sparks fly when they're on stage together.
"I think there's a nice balance of ego and selflessness," says Decker. "You gotta have an ego in jazz to want to be a soloist. At the same time, to cooperate in a jazz group, you have to be able to sublimate that ego and listen to the others and let them have their say."
Rosensky can't explain it as pointedly. "There's a certain rapport," he says. "I feel very fortunate to have not just these guys, but guys in the area I get to play with who are such great musicians." He also did an occasional duo gig with fellow jazz guitarist George Turner before Turner decided to split for graduate school.
The feeling appears to be mutual, according to guitarist and überfan Matthew Willner. "Jeff understands the history of the music, but yet puts his own voice on it," Willner gushes. "He plays with an incredible amount of emotion, and we're lucky to have him in Charlottesville. Mike plays with an enormous amount of subtlety and probably doesn't even realize the beauty of what he's doing."
Mike Rosensky and Jeff Decker
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO