White trombonist Roswell Rudd (1935) was the musician who rediscovred the
trombone in the free-jazz era. After establishing his credentials with
Herbie Nichols (1960-62), Cecil Taylor (1961), Steve Lacy (1963-64), Bill Dixon (1962-63) and Archie Shepp (1964-67),
Rudd formed the New York Art Quartet in 1964
with John Tchicai on alto saxophone, Milford Graves on drums and Lewis Worrell on bass.
New York Art Quartet (november 1964), one of the milestones of free jazz,
displayed group improvisation at its best in four lengthy jams,
particularly Number 6 and Rosmosis, anchored by
Graves' drumming and highlighted by the horns' fantastic counterpoint,
while Leroi Jones reciting his black-revolutionary poem Black Dada Nihilismus offered a chance for free jazz to follow a narrative cue.
Rudd greatly expanded the range of the trombone turning it into an abstract
device for generating sound no less powerful than the saxophone.
Rudd's stately morphing style and Tchicai's polyphonic style matured on Mohawk (june 1965), with Reggie Workman replacing Worrell.
Roswell Rudd (november 1965),
culled from live radio broadcasts,
tested the trombone against Tchicai's alto
and over a dynamic rhythm section of Dutch bassist Finn Von Eyben and Southafrican drummer Louis Moholo in three lengthy Rudd compositions:
Respects, Old Stuff and Sweet Smells.
Everywhere (february 1966) tried to repeat the same ideas but featured
an inferior line-up (despite Charlie Haden on bass) and inferior material.
The same line up appears on Old Stuff (Cuneiform, 2010), that
documents more live radio broadcasts.
Rudd also composed the jazz operas Blues for Planet Earth and Gold Rush,
and played in the creative orchestras of the era: Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra (1968) and Carla Bley"s Jazz Composers' Orchestra (1968) and Escalator Over The Hill (1971).
Rudd's own five-movement composition for the (24-piece) Jazz Composer's Orchestra, Numatik Swing Band (july 1973), was highlighted by Circulation, a multi-stylistic workout mainly for the trombone,
Lullaby For Greg with Sheila Jordan on vocals, and the dissonant and exotic last movement, Aerosphere.
Rudd the trombonist was transposing the New Orleans' trombone to the "creative"
era while absorbing also elements of folk music.
Rudd proved to be also and mainly a significant composer on Flexible Flyer (march 1974), that reprised the collaboration with Sheila Jordan, backed by a quartet with piano, bass and drums (Barry Altschul), particularly in Suh Blah Blah Buh Sibi and and the three-part 16-minute Moselle Variations,
and on Blown Bone (march 1976), that delivered Rudd compositions for
soprano saxophone (Steve Lacy), tenor saxophone, clarinet, electric piano, bass, drums (Paul Motian) and trombone, such as Bethesda Fountain,
Cement Blues (also bluesman Louisiana Red on guitar and vocals)
and It's Happening (also Louisiana Red and Enrico Rava on trumpet).
After Maine (november 1976),
the live Inside Job (may 1976) by a quintet with trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Dave Burrell, with Rudd's Sacred Song and Inside Job,
and the solo The Definitive (march 1979), on which Rudd played trombone, piano, drums and percussion (overdubbing them) as well as sang,
he concentrated on other activities.
Rudd returned to the recording studio for Regeneration (june 1982), in
a quintet with Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone, Misha Mengelberg on piano, Kent Carter on bass and Han Bennink on drums, paying tribute to Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk, and other minor collaborations. Hardly revolutionary was also
the next "return", a sudden burst of recording activity:
Broad Strokes (january 2000), with The Light (for a trio of trombone,
piano and Sheila Jordan's vocals) and little else of note,
a rather pathetic New York Art Quartet reunion, 35th Reunion (june 1999),
and several embarrassing collaborations, including a West African group and
a Mongolian group.
Live in New York (september 2000) featured Archie Shepp on tenor saxophone, Amiri Baraka on spoken vocals, Grachan Moncur on trombone, Reggie Workman on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums.
The double-disc Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd Quartet (june 1999 - Cuneiform, 2007) collected the last collaborations between the two.
Keep Your Heart Right (august 2007) featured a quartet with vocalist Sunny Kim, pianist Lafayette Harris Jr. and bassist Brad Jones. The Incredible Honk (recorded between 2008 and 2010) featured a grand total of 26 musicians.
The five-LP set Call It Art (Triple Point, 2013) collects unreleased
music by New York Art Quartet from 1964-1965:
a 17-minute version of Rudd's Rosmosis (december 1964),
Nettus II (early 1965),
For Eric: Memento Mori (same session),
22-minute No. 6
and the 27-minute Uh-Oh (october 1964).
Strength & Power (2016)
was recorded by a
quartet of Roswell Rudd (trombone), Jamie Saft (piano),
Trevor Dunn (acoustic bass) and Balazs Pandi (drums).
Roswell Rudd died in 2017 at the age of 82.
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