Ruby Braff once described a jazz combo as "conversation among friends." Venerated veteran trombonist Roswell Rudd rates prime candidacy for Mister Congeniality as he relaxes in witty repartee and pleasant banter with like-thinking colleagues: stalwart-yet-light-fingered pianist Lafayette Harris Jr., orotund bassist Brad Jones and singer Sunny Kim, a dew-dappled voice of reason and cheer. Rudd, self-styled curmudgeon of Kerhonkson (onomatopoeically Hudson Valley hamlet), grouses about being a frustrated singer, but in truth he's a one-man chorus on this set of his vigorous songs from a deep 40-year songbook, a few with lyrics by partner Verna Gillis.
Rudd dips into his bag of mutes and whips out more 'bone voices than Rowan Atkinson does faces. He's a gruff plunger on the title tune, cracked-wheezy grandpa's kazoo on "The Light Is With Me" and, on gospel-soaked "Loved By Love," God's own glory-and-honey declamatory voice. He follows or leads Kim in counterstatements (or harmony blends mixed with contrapuntal razz-ma-tazz, as on "Bamako"). Kim, a revelation, launches her smiling, slightly nasal sound that, for all its wide vibrato, hews unerringly precise and occasionally channels Sheila Jordan's mystical simplicity, as on the spooky "Suh Blah Blah Buh Sibi" and affirming "Whatever Turns You On, Baby."
Harris and Jones blend in blissful, hearty support, unencumbered by traps, especially buoyant on "I Look In The Mirror" and "I'm Going Sane"; Jones posits irrefutable solo opening arguments on "All Nite Soul" (pizzicato) and "You Blew It" (arco). "What's gonna happen when the sky falls down," sings Kim, to open this feel-good, think-right date. From the bandstand at New York City's Rubin Museum's Harlem in the Himalayas series in late January 2009, Rudd placed the country's recent doleful doom-boom in perspective with such original music (as well as upbeat exhortations on President Barack Obama's hope-filled Inauguration and Captain Chesley Sullenberger's heroic Hudson River airline touchdown) in an uproarious, life- affirming duo with pianist Harris, Kim joining them for encores. To witness, even overhear, transcendent conversations such as these may well contribute to cures for what ails us, individually and collectively, short-term or bone-deep.
Track Listing: Keep Your Heart Right; Loved By Love; I Look In The Mirror; The Light Is With Me; I'm Going Sane; Bamako; All Nite Soul; Suh Blah Blah Buh Sibi; Whatever Turns You On Baby; You Blew It.
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