Paul Rutherford: Two Discs, One Future Classic

John Eyles By

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These two contrasting releases, with music dating from 1972 and 1993, are both in memory of Paul Rutherford, trombonist extraordinaire, who died suddenly in August 2007.

In his sleeve notes to the solo release, Emanem label proprietor (and longtime Rutherford admirer) Martin Davidson observes, "I have never understood why interest in artists seems to increase after they are no longer around to appreciate it. Therefore I am somewhat loath to issue this CD at this juncture in case I give the impression of cashing in on a disturbingly sad event.

Davidson need have no fear. For decades he has championed Rutherford with a steady stream of fine releases; without Emanem, Rutherford's profile would have been far lower and we'd all be the poorer for that.

Paul Rutherford
Solo In Berlin 1972

The solo album, recorded by FMP but—apart from the fairly short "Berlin In Zil —never released, is a lost treasure. Recorded at three separate concerts, it captures Rutherford at the peak of his powers, employing a panoply of techniques, many experimental and innovative, most developed by Rutherford himself. He manages to make a solo trombone sound like a rich and varied ensemble. As well as various muted effects, there are frequent examples of Rutherford's renowned multi-phonics—singing (or sometimes growling) whilst also playing.

There is playing at the extremes of the tonal range: the deep bass split tones on "A Song My Granny Taught Me and "Quartus are both extraordinary and affecting, and rightly draw spontaneous applause from the audience. The sudden, soaring high frequency swoops, often accompanied by vocal effects, are just as impressive. And on "Berl In Zil , Rutherford duets with a trombone-activated piano which produces sounds similar to a pianist plucking and strumming inside the instrument, the end result being pleasingly harmonious.

The most miraculous thing of all, however, is not the range of sounds that Rutherford conjures from his instrument, but that they are all integrated together—alongside much conventional playing—into performances that burst with musicality and imagination. Never does it sound as if Rutherford is using an effect just because he can, but rather that he has a vast array of sounds available, which he deploys as required to translate the sounds in his head into music.

This is one of Rutherford's very best albums; in time, it may even come to be rated as highly as his classic solo album, The Gentle Harm Of The Bourgeoisie. For now, it can certainly be mentioned in the same breath.

Guido Mazzon Sextet featuring Paul Rutherford
Flights Of Fancy

Fast forward to Noci, Italy in June 1993. We hear a very different side of Rutherford, in a very different setting, as a member of trumpeter Guido Mazzon's sextet, performing a suite composed by Mazzon.

The forty-minute suite gives a high profile to Umberto Petrin on piano and Rudy Migliardi on tuba, who underpin much of the music, with Mazzon also well to the fore. But as much as any individual, it is the ensemble that is the star; the writing plays to its strength of blending the instruments together into a satisfying whole.

Obviously Rutherford has a very different role—and a lower profile—than in Berlin, but his contributions are immediately identifiable and he makes the most of every opportunity. His solo that opens the third movement makes it sound like a concerto for trombone, and his playing in the ensemble passages commands attention. As with the Emanem release, there is no hint of its release cashing in on Rutherford's death; this is music that demands to be heard.

Two views of Rutherford, both fitting memorials, both well worth hearing, one a future classic.

Tracks and Personnel

Solo In Berlin 1972

Tracks: Berlintro; Berl In Zil; A Song My Granny Taught Me; Not A Very Wonderful Ballad; Primus; Secundus; Tertius; Quartus.

Personnel: Paul Rutherford: improvised trombone solos.

Flights Of Fancy

Tracks: Flights of Fancy—Movements 1 To 5

Personnel: Guido Mazzon: trumpet, conductor; Paul Rutherford: trombone; Renato Geremia: saxophones; Rudy Migliardi: tuba; Umberto Petrin: piano; Tiziano Tononi: drums.

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