[27 April 2009]
Trombonist Roswell Rudd has the distinction of being one of the first to apply his instrument to avant-garde/free jazz settings, appearing on record with pianist Cecil Taylor as early as 1961 and paving the way for creative players like Albert Mangelsdorff, George Lewis, and Grachan Moncur III. If the fact that Rudd is still active some 50 years later isn’t reason enough to celebrate, the cast he’s assembled for his latest album should do the trick—with five different trombone-heavy ensembles, in many ways it’s an extended family reunion for the instrument’s modern proponents. With Steve Swell and Deborah Weisz joining Rudd in the front line, the Trombone Tribe band (featured on five of the disc’s 11 pieces) represents three generations of players alone. Rudd’s writing adds depth to all of the brass-heavy ensembles—which max out at six (!) trombonists for a pair of short compositions—where his symphonic voicings and rich layers of melody and harmony tie together the otherwise disparate lineups, whether stylistically referencing Dixieland, New Orleans funk, free-form jazz, or traditional West African music. Though the yuk-it-up trombone humor found in song titles like “Astro Slyde”, “Bone Again With Bonerama”, and “Slide & the Family Bone” gets overbearing, Rudd manages to make the variety work on an album full of strong performances.