It is difficult to think of a better way of honoring the memory of trombonist Roswell Rudd than through the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Rudd (1935-2017), the eternal avant-gardist, maintained a firm foundation in the jazz tradition. Even when he was working in the New York Art Quartet or collaborating with Archie Shepp and Steve Lacy, his approach was rooted in jazz's heritage. Ab Baars and Joost Buis celebrate Rudd with these ten chamber jazz adaptations (maybe better 'reconfigurations') of Ellington and Strayhorn.
Both Baars' and Buis' knowledge of Ellington runs deep. They recorded Kinda Dukish (Wig, 2005) and Buis took part in Eric Boeren's most excellent All Ellington (De Platenbakkerij, 2018) small big-band recording. The music here is indeed a labor of love, delivered with a most sympathetic touch. Pieces such as "Cool And Gentle," the reimagined "Mr. Gentle Mr. Cool," and "Take Turns / Tonk" are dancing melodies like little cat paws across a bookshelf. The music gives the impression that these two are retelling stories they have told and retold multiple times. Baars, whether on clarinet or tenor saxophone as heard on "Two Ways" / "Wig Wise," applies his patented gentle, self-contained sound. Buis follows suit, for his part his trombone delivers the occasional growl and blat in this all to cordial conversation. The one exception is the more outward and free "Moods For Roswell," a reimagining of "In A Sentimental Mood." With Baars playing a shakuhachi flute and Buis a muted trombone, the pair parse the familiar composition as if searching for clues. Unlike the other tracks, it ventures beyond the familiar, maybe the prompt for their next collaboration.
Sootywing / Black Butterfly; Catskill Cyclist / Sonnet For Caesar; Two Ways / Wig Wise; Cool And Gentle /
Mr. Gentle Mr. Cool; Hopkins Rudd / Jack The Bear; Little March / Klop; Sweet Stumblings / Sweet Mama;
Handwoven / Creole Blues; Take Turns / Tonk; Moods For Roswell / In A Sentimental Mood.