Adam Rudolph: The Mysteries of Creation
Paired with the likeminded and musically articulate Sosa, he took part in a musical conversation in an atmosphere of complete freedom, meaning in this context a total absence of inhibition and convention. To wit: in jazz, there is usually an assumption that one performer will solo while the other marks time. Here, says Rudolph, “we could both be soloing at once,” referencing a point of apparent discord in the song “The Call” in which Sosa and Rudolph are at musical odds with each other. “It was an interesting moment. He was playing some kind of melodic, romantic theme, and my playing was something altogether different.”
He explains that this is indicative of his attempts to balance the musical statements of his collaborative partner, and vice versa - a dark to offset a light, a yin to match a yang.
“Sometimes what I wanted to do is provide contrasting elements. Call it kinetic, call it romantic – to me, there’s contrast, and if you put red next to blue, the red gets redder. It’s the poignancy and beauty of hearing a romantic line when it’s juxtaposed with something else. It’s alchemy.”
This juxtaposition is fundamentally the same as the Indian concept of rasa, a means of aesthetic evaluation first posited by Bharata Muni in his ancient theatrical treatise Natya Shastra. It is normally linked with the word “swadana” to signify the “tasting of the true flavor.” Rudolph translates the term as “emotional coloration.”
“We might call it mood. Or a transcendent feeling. I try to focus like a laser into the emotional essence and expressive quality of music at the same time as I’m trying to make it as free as possible. And those are almost diametrically opposed. Maybe the tension is what creates some kind of beauty in the music. I don’t know.”
“I always think orchestrally,” he adds, elaborating with a visual illustration of instrumental possibilities: “You can have parallel lines, oblique lines, a wavy line and a straight one. When you hold your hand up in front of a window, your see your hand, the houses, the trees and maybe the mountains beyond, but these are all distinct entities that you’re seeing. More than one reality can be described at one time. We don’t have to experience music in a linear sense, which is what we’re taught to do.” Keeping this in mind, he aspired to create a “three-dimensional phenomenon” with “emotional depth” on Pictures of Soul , just as he does elsewhere in his music.
In the end, though, these principles always seem to go full circle, ending at their singular origin. “It’s all about creating in the moment – right now, and then now, and then now – and being a conduit for expression. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Life is like that too. Philosophically, only the moment exists. We love to look back and hope or fear the future, but all that exists is the moment. We live in the delusion of routine. But it’s an illusion, what they call the eternal now.”
In this way, Pictures of Soul , released through Rudolph’s own Meta Records , was for him the fusion and application of these multifarious ideas. The album’s title speaks to how this was ultimately achieved: via snapshots of the innermost regions of the self, the place where the individual mingles with the universal. But it would be a mistake to think of this album as the exhaustion of Rudolph’s ever-developing ideas. Pictures of Soul is only one fraction of an intricate whole.
This month will bring about the release of another duo record, Beautiful , this time coupling Rudolph with fellow percussionist and Don Cherry acolyte Hamid Drake. It will be issued by the UK label Soul Jazz under the moniker Hu Vibrational. In what might seem like a radical departure from his joint efforts with Sosa and Lateef, not to mention his larger ventures with his Organic Orchestra, this project will be “more dance-oriented” and geared for a slightly more club-going audience. “It’s all acoustic,” Rudolph notes, as if to pre-emptively answer purist indignation. In March, Meta is scheduled to release another album, Rudolph’s Celebration Trio with Sam Rivers and Harris Eisenstadt. It was recorded the day before the distinguished saxophonist’s eightieth birthday. “He came over and one of my students organized it. We recorded it in a day,” he recalls.
“Sam hears everything: all the overtones, all the tuning of my drums. He has such an imagination and he has no technical limitations. That’s a formula for success in creative music-making. The two most important elements are listening and imagination. When you hear something, it inspires you to go into different kinds of places. And if you can imagine it, you can do it.”