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Roswell Rudd

Roswell Rudd is the most distinctive trombonist to emerge from the avant-garde/free-jazz world era of the 1960s. He is one of the only musicians from the period to bypass the overwhelming influence bebop almost completely. He went straight from being a tailgate trombonist in a Dixieland band to co-founding the ultra avant-garde New York Art Quartet, with few stops in between. Rudd exploited the trombone's natural proclivities to the fullest. Rudd didn't try to mimic the language of bebop, which was spoken most naturally by players of keyed instruments. Instead, he jumped wholeheartedly into free jazz -- a type of music more concerned with exploring sound for its own sake. A sound he and his instrument were exceedingly well equipped for.

Rudd's first instrument was the French horn, which he studied from the age of 11. His father was an amateur drummer who introduced his son to jazz. In his teens, Rudd began teaching himself to play the trombone. Woody Herman's star trombonist, Bill Harris, was a particular favorite. He played Dixieland while he attended Yale, with a band called Eli's Chosen Six. From 1960-1962 he worked with legendary pianist Herbie Nichols, who became something of a mentor to Rudd. From 1961-1963, Rudd played in a band with soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and drummer Dennis Charles. The band would later be informally known as the School Days Quartet, after the 1963 Emanem album of that name. The group's repertoire consisted entirely of Thelonious Monk tunes. In 1962, he joined trumpeter Bill Dixon's free jazz group, which also included tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and drummer Charles. In 1964, he founded and co-led the New York Art Quartet (with saxophonist John Tchicai) and participated in the October Revolution in Jazz, an early free jazz festival organized by Bill Dixon and held in a New York City café. Rudd spent the latter half of the '60s playing in Archie Shepp's band, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, and a group led by saxophonist Gato Barbieri. In 1968, he formed the Primordial Quartet (with saxophonists Lee Konitz and Robin Kenyatta and pianist/vibist Karl Berger). The group disbanded in 1970. Rudd's compositions for the Jazz Composer's Orchestra were recorded in 1973 on the album Numatik Swing Band (JCOA).

Although Rudd recorded occasionally in the '70s and '80s (notably under Lacy's leadership), he gradually became less visible as matters of economic survival took precedence over creative concerns. He worked a variety of non-musical jobs and spent time teaching at the college level. After being denied tenure at the University of Maine in Augusta, Rudd moved to the Catskills region of New York state, where he worked steadily in a hotel resort band. By the mid-'90s, he started to record more frequently. Albums on the CIMP label, under his own name and as a sideman, helped reestablish him as a jazz player. At the turn of the millennium, Rudd performed with some frequency in Europe and New York, regaining his reputation as the father of free jazz trombone.

In 2000, Rudd and Lacy reunited to record (with Lacy's regular rhythm section, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, and vocalist Irene Aebi) Monk's Dream for the Verve label; the band also toured in support of the album. Also during the 2000s, Rudd began delving into various world music projects, including 2001's Malicool album featuring musicians from West Africa, and 2003's Blue Mongol, recorded with Mongolian throat singers. In 2007, Rudd kept the world vibe going with the Afro-Cuban- and South American-flavored El Espiritu Jibaro. In 2008, Rudd featured vocalist Sunny Kim on Keep Your Heart Right. A year later, he released the trombone album Trombone Tribe, featuring a bevy of players including Josh Roseman, Wycliffe Gordon, and others. In 2011, Rudd celebrated his 75th birthday with the release of The Incredible Honk. Two years later, he cut a set of pop, country, folk, and blues standards for Sunnyside under the title Trombone for Lovers. It featured a choir as well as individual vocalists including Heather Masse.

In his 80th year, Rudd collaborated with Masse, a member of the Wailin' Jennys. Enlisting bassist Mark Helias and guitarist Ralf Sturn, they cut a series of originals and jazz standards in intimate, almost informal recording sessions. The end result entitled August Love Song, was released by Red House Records in February of 2016. ~ Chris Kelsey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Trombone For Lovers

1. Ghost Riders In The Sky

2. Here, There & Everywhere

3. Baby, It's Cold Outside

4. Trouble In Mind

5. Struttin' With Some Barbecue

6. Sleepwalk

7. Autumn Leaves

8. Green Onions

9. Tennessee Waltz

10. Come Sunday

11. Unchained Melody

12. September Song

13. Funky Sweet Thing

14. Joe Hill (Trombone Solo With Piano Accompaniment)

15. Joe Hill (NYC Labor Chorus & Soloists)

16. Joe Hill - The Relentless Walk

17. Joe Hill - Joe Hill Will Never Die

x

Track List: The Incredible Honk

1. Feeling Good

2. Dame La Mano

3. Berlin, Alexanderplatz

4. C'etait Dans La Nuit

5. Arirang

6. Waltzin' With My Baby

7. Blue Flower Blue

8. Alone With The Moon

9. Kerhonkson: The Muse-Ical

10. BRO

11. Inngoni Vortex

12. Airborne

13. Danny Boy

x

Track List: Trombone Tribe

1. Fan Fare

2. Elton Dean

3. Astro Slyde

4. Hulla Gulla

5. No End

6. Bone Again With Bonerama

7. To The Day

8. Sand In My Slide Shuffle

9. Slide & The Family Bone

10. Twelve Bars With Sexmob

11. Place Above: Instroduction Into Skyward Theme

12. Place Above: Instrumental Doxology

13. Place Above: Vocal Doxology

14. Place Above: Modal Improvisation

15. Place Above: Fan Fare

x

Track List: Blue Mongol

1. The Camel

2. Gathering Light

3. Behind The Mountains

4. Steppes Song

5. Djoloren

6. Four Mountains

7. Buryat Boogie

8. Blue Mongol

9. Bridle Ringing

10. Ulirenge

11. American Bound

12. The Leopard

13. Honey On The Moon

x

Track List: Keep Your Heart Right

1. Keep Your Heart Right

2. Loved By Love

3. I Look In The Mirror

4. The Light Is With Me

5. I'm Going Sane (One Day At A Time)

6. Bamako

7. All Nite Soul

8. Suh Blah Blah Buh Sibi

9. Whatever Turns You On Baby

10. You Blew It

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