Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


RUDD, Roswell

(b 17 November 1935, Sharon CN; d 21 December 2017, Ottawa, Canada) Trombone, composer. His father hosted informal jam sessions; he told the New York Times in 2015, 'It was a spontaneous thing. Suddenly a clarinet player shows up. Then a guy’s playing piano. My father’s on the drums over there. People start dancing, you hear laughter bursting out, and all kinds of conversation. That sound is what is still in me, and it seems to be inexhaustible.' He studied French horn as a child; while a student at Yale   he played in a dixieland band called Eli’s Chosen Six (and reunited with them in 2005 dfor a 70th birthday concert. He played traditional jazz in NYC in the late '50s, began playing with the avant-garde early '60s including Herbie Nichols and Steve Lacy (who also had a dixieland background), then the New York Art Quartet with John Tchicai, Reggie Workman, Milford Graves; they toured Europe and recorded for Fontana. He also played at Newport with the Jazz Composers' Orchestra including Archie Shepp, Jimmy Lyons, Steve Swallow etc (album Communication on Fontana; also a seminal set on JCOA '68). He toured and recorded with Shepp, Albert Ayler (New York Eye And Ear Control '64 on ESP), Charlie Haden, etc. In the early '60s he also began studying ethnic music, having noticed that vocal traditions thought unique to jazz were in fact common around the world. He graduated from Yale, taught at Bard College, then the U. of Maine; worked as a musicologist with Alan Lomax, etc. His compositions fuse jazz tradition, ethnic music and classical technique. It's remarkable the number of modernists he worked with who have similarly lowered the barriers between musics: Lacy, Haden, Cherry and others.

His own albums included Roswell Rudd Quartet '65 on America with Tchicai, sextet Everywhere '66 on Impulse with Haden, then Numatik Swing Band '73 on JCOA by a 24-piece band including Haden, Dewey Redman, a vocal by Sheila Jordan on one track. A quintet Flexible Flyer '74 on Arista included Barry Altschul and Jordan; septet Blown-bone '76 on Japanese Philips included Lacy, Paul Motian, Jordan; quintet Inside Job '76 on Arista included Dave Burrell; quartet Maxine '76 on Dutch Bv Haast label was made in Amsterdam, duo Sharing '78 with pianist Giorgio Gaslini on Dischi Della Quercia in Milan. The Definitive Roswell Rudd '79 on Horo was overdubbed in Rome with Rudd playing trombone, piano, drums, percussion, vocals on two tracks; quintet Regeneration '82 on Soul Note included Lacy, Misha Mengelberg on piano, Han Bennink on drums, Kent Carter on bass.

Regeneration included tunes by Thelonious Monk and Nichols; a sequel Change Of Season was all Nichols but Rudd had to be replaced by George Lewis because of family commitments. 'He always wanted people to take his stuff and do their own things with it,' said Rudd, who wrote the notes for Mosaic's box of the complete Nichols; the tours/gigs did a lot to reawaken interest in Nichols. Trickles on Black Saint was co-led with Lacy, as was the quartet School Days '93 on hat Hut. He sat in with a quartet led by reedman Elton Dean (b 28 October 1945, Nottingham) at London's Vortex club '96, the results were released as Rumours Of An Incident '97 on Slam, the first set mostly mellow, the second picking up energy; Rudd's warm, rasping sound unchanged. He recorded with Keith Tippett; then The Unheard Herbie Nichols '96 on CIMP with Greg Millar on guitar, John Bacon Jr on drums, followed by Vol. 2, both delightful.

His domestic partner and manager was Verna Gillis, an ethnomusicologist, who got him together with  kora player Toumani Diabaté for an album MALIcool (2002). Another album was Blue Mongol, with the Mongolian Buryat Band, followed by El Espírito Jíbaro (2007) with the Puerto Rican cuatro master Yomo Toro. Some of these projects were preceded by sessions at his home, just like the ones he remembered from his childhood. Trombone For Lovers (2013) featured slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein and jazz singer Faye Victor, who were also included in The Wizard of Roz at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on his 80th birthday, along with singer-songwriter Heather Masse, the Cajun band Beausoleil, and others. The more at the party the better. He finally lost a battle with cancer.