Oriol Roca (Barcelona, 1979) didn’t always know he wanted to be a musician, let alone a percussionist. There was always music at home, though. He remembers listening to classical music recordings with his grandfather at a very early age and playing Beatles tunes on a beat up guitar along with his father and brother when he was in primary school. Drums came later. So did improvised music.
In The Netherlands, where he graduated at The Royal Conservatory in 2006, he learnt a few important things about himself: that he would only play the music he really wanted to play and that he could only make music with people he liked. So far he’s been able to live up to those principles. With Barcelona as his base camp Oriol is one of the most prolific musicians of his generation. He appears in over eighty albums and has played in a large variety of contexts: jazz bands, improvised music groups, singer-songwriters, projects rooted in folklore, others in the avantgarde tradition. The one thing they share is that they all involve people who trust each other as artists and do whatever they do in the most honest manner possible.
His melodic playing and his versatility allowed him to build strong bounds with a large number of outstanding musicians from the jazz-improv and contemporary European scene such as Alexandra Grimal, Noël Akchoté, Chris Corsano, Brice Soniano, Erik Vermeulen, Manolo Cabras, Paolo Angeli, Giovanni di Domenico, Lynn Cassiers, Laurent Blondieu, Ferran Fages, Damo Suzuki, David Mengual, Joachim Badenhorst, Ben Sluijs, Riccardo Luppi, David Soler, Paul Lytton, Masa Kamaguchi, Augusto Pirodda, Tom Chant, Marco Mezquida, Jan Bang, Etienne Lecomte, Jeroen van Herzeele, Agustí Fernández or Jozef Dumoulin.
Oriol Roca débuted as leader with the album ‘Mar’ (el NEGOCITO Records 2017) a record of high emotional intensity, sometimes serene and at others volcanic, where north is always the melody, accompained by Giovanni di Domenico on piano, and Manolo Cabras on double bass.
Parallel to his activity as a drummer, he is also a composer and sound designer. In his works he aims to create unique aural experiences that challenge audiences, often using spatial techniques and elements of spontaneity, including improvisation and making it a collaborative and interdisciplinary work . He creates his own sound designs and compositions using a combination of foley, electronics, field recordings and live instruments. He works across all forms including theatre, contemporary dance and installation, as well as composing works for other musicians or performing himself. His music has been premiered at festivals and theatres in Poland, Norway, Spain, Italy and France.
A few notes on his taste: Oriol has great memories of opening once for Henry Threadgill, he loves listening to Frederic Mompou’s records, admires Paal-Nilssen Love’s energy and was very sad to learn Paul Motian passed away. He even confesses that he nicked one of his signature snare patterns from Björk’s beautiful “Hyperballad”.
“Perhaps it’s the restraint displayed by Roca that makes this solo album so compelling, but the forty minutes flew right by and I was sad when the album ended.” All About Jazz (USA)
“Listening to this magnificent trio, his playing has never ceased to refer us to one of the greatest known percussionists in free music, the immense Barry Altschul, of which Oriol appears today as an obvious successor.” Focus Vif (BE)
“Roca enters into another complex and unpredictable series of patterns which would serve most other drummers as a solo, but here it’s simply his agile contribution to the landscape.” Dave Foxall, Jazz Journal (UK)
“Oriol Roca is an excellent drummer who offers us a sober and deep album which opens an infinity of doors for the future of this trio, which we will follow with interest.” Improjazz (FR)
“Roca’s drums follow and lead at the same time. But he is not just keeping the rhythm, forming a unity that is quite thrilling and enjoyable.” Fotis Nikolakopoulos, Freejazzblog (INT)
“Oriol Roca est un batteur doublé d’un percussionniste à la recherche de colorations nouvelles.” Claude Loxhay, Jazzaround (BE)
“I’ve been poking around drummer Oriol Roca‘s music for a couple years now, and he always finds a way to gain interest.” Bird is the Worm (USA)
“Oriol Roca bounces from one rhythmic to the next, coloring more than hitting, draws air movements more than he structures.” Diane Gastellu, Citizenjazz (FR)