Roswell Rudd: The Incredible Honk (2011)
There is a distinct sense of the celebration of his 75th year on this good earth as trombonist Roswell Rudd continues the journey through his singular musical universe on his superb The Incredible Honk. Criss-crossing the paths he took when he first reconnected with ethnomusicologist producer and soul mate Verna Gillis, Rudd undertakes a sonic sojourn from the heartland of America, through Cuba, Scotland, continental Europe, the Far East and West Africa, returning to his beloved Kerhonkson. His musical cohorts include: celebrated Cuban tres player David Oquendo, heard here on guitar and vocals; bluesy pianist Lafayette Harris; celestial vocalist Sunny Kim; legendary bluegrass fiddler Michael Doucet; and mystical Chinese sheng player and vocalist Wu Tong. In a series of masterly collaborations, Rudd comes up with one of his finest performances since Keep Your Heart Right (Sunnyside, 2008).
Once again, Rudd pays tribute to the art of song in inimitable fashion. His grasp of melody is absolutely flawless and so utterly pure that he seems to almost exist in a parallel universe, where he can do no wrong. Rudd's musicality is so superior and his voicing and attack so perfect that he matches the seemingly limitless expanse that the human voice traverses at the hands of Kim and Tong. While this mammalian tonal palette has always been the hallmark of Rudd's playingwith down and dirty growls and smears, voiced with tremulous glissandihere, Rudd has elevated his playing to a new level, uninhabited by any other trombonist playing today. His brawny attack and array of tonal colors is matched only by his elastic, brassy timbres. On "Blue Flower Blue," for instance, Rudd soars unfettered as Tong scats his way through the Chinese traditional song, and matches the traditional wooden harmonica-like sheng with spectacular gutbucket sounds. He matches the pristine vocals of Kim with a husky, controlled voicing of his own on "Alone On the Moon," and inhabits the same mystical space as Kim on the Korean traditional, "Arirang."
Rudd puts on a master display of trombone virtuosity as he descends to the depths of gutbucket glory on "BRO," the magisterial collision of American and West African blues. This spectacular musical journey continues through the brooding improvisations of "Ngoni Vortex" and "Airborne," and Rudd conjures memories of Don Cherry's great African adventures as well as Pharoah Sanders's meeting with Moroccan Gnawa master, Maleem Mahmoud Ghania, on Trance of the Seven Colors (Axiom, 1994). "Airborne" has some of the most magical melodic exchanges between ngoniba-master Bassekou Kouyate and Rudd, but it is the glassy brilliance of Wu Tong's voice and sheng and the almighty melodism of Rudd's trombone on "Danny Boy" that sets the album apart. So inventive is Rudd that he turns this elementally sad ballad into a triumphant song with his masterful voicing of the soul. Rudd takes little twists and turns in the melody, filling it with growling phrases as he brings this memorable album to a close.
Track Listing: Feeling Good; Dame La Mano; Berlin Alexanderplatz; C'etait Dans la Nuit; Arirang; Waltzin' With My Baby; Blue Flower Blue; Alone on the Moon; Kerhonkson: The Muse-ical; BRO; Ngoni Vortex; Airborne; Danny Boy.
Personnel: Roswell Rudd: trombone, coyotes and other sound effects (9); Aaron Comess: drums (1); Richard Hammond: bass (1); Arne Wendt: organ (1) Ivan-Rubenstein-Gillis: piano, percussion (1); David Oquendo: tres, vocal (2); Ken Filiano: acoustic bass (3, 5, 8, 9); Lafayette Harris: piano (3, 5, 6, 8, 9); Michael Doucet: fiddle, vocals with BeauSoleil (4); Jimmy Breaux: accordion (4); Billy Ware: percussion (4); Tommy Alesi: drums (4); Mitchell Reed: electric bass (4); David Doucet: acoustic guitar (4); Emily Haines: vocal (4); Sunny Kim: vocal (5, 8, 9); Wu Tong: sheng, vocal (7, 13); John Lindberg: acoustic bass (7, 13); Verna Gillis: Sprechstimme beginning and end (9); Bassekou: Kouyate: ngoniba (10-12); Henry Schroy: electric bass (10-12); Omar Barou Kouyate: medium ngoni (10-12); Fousseyni Kouyate: ngoniba (10-12); Moussa Bah: ngoni bass (10-12); Alou Coulibaly: calabash (10-12); Moussa Sissoko: yabara (rattle) (10-12).