Artists by Name



Roswell Rudd / Fay Victor / Lafayette Harris / Ken Filiano 

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For his follow-up to 2016’s purely improvised studio recording Strength & Power (a cooperative quartet album featuring pianist Jamie Saft, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Balazs Pandi), the ever-adventurous trombonist-composer Roswell Rudd made a decided shift in direction on his first RareNoise release as a leader by embracing jazz standards he has loved and played throughout his long and illustrious career. Accompanied by the brilliant pianist Lafayette Harris, upright bass virtuoso Ken Filiano and soulful vocal sensation Fay Victor, the 81-year-old jazz master delivers with rare potency and poignancy on the aptly-titled Embrace. This intimate, drum-less quartet session is brimming with conversational playing between all the participants, with Rudd and Victor partaking in some particularly interactive exchanges on jazz classics like Billy Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For,” Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Thelonious Monk’s beautiful ballad “Pannonica,” the standard “Can’t We Be Friends” and the traditional “House of the Rising Sun.”
 Rudd has high praise for his empathetic partners on Embrace:
 
 
 
 
 
“Lafayette Harris is one of the best accompanist that I ever played with on a piano. Boy, is he there! He’s not only ahead of the music, he’s in the moment and behind it all at the same time. It’s amazing to find somebody who can play like that. It’s as if Lafayette has been there all my life when I play with him. Kenny Filiano is a virtuoso of the bass, particularly with the bow. Let the world be told and shown! And Fay Victor is my most recent discovery. Fay is an instrument, a voice, a personality, a spirit…all of those and more.”
 
Of the members in this Embrace quartet, Rudd goes back furthest with Filiano (the bassist appears on the trombonist’s 2000 album Broad Strokes as well as 2011’s The Incredible Honk). Harris appeared on Rudd’s 2008 album Keep Your Heart Right (which had a similar drum-less quartet configuration featuring vocalist Sunny Kim) and also on The Incredible Honk. Victor previously made a guest appearance on two tracks from 2013’s Trombone For Lovers.
 
“I like playing without drums occasionally and I’ve done that a bit over the years,” says Rudd. “I hear the harmonics of the singers a lot better when the drums aren’t there. I don’t know, it just seems to work better for me with voice and piano. Getting those interactions is something that’s very important to me, which I learned about from Sheila Jordan and some other vocalists that I’ve been lucky enough to play with. I really want to hear the whole harmonic series of the singers when I play with them. And you know that’s a very delicate and temperamental place to come from.”
 
Rudd treads delicately on the tender opener, “Something to Live For,” a 1939 song which marked the first collaboration between Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. Following a beautiful solo piano intro, Rudd sings the melody through his horn in raucous yet poignant fashion, like latter day Billie Holiday. Victor enters at the 3:30 and the trombonist proceeds to shadow and comment on her soulful singing through the remainder of the piece.
 
They inject a lively, almost calypso type bounce into Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” a tune mostly played as a brooding, funereal dirge. “That version came from playing it over and over when we got together,” says Rudd. “This is what eventually emerged.” Victor showcases her scatting prowess on this number before singing the Rahsaan Roland Kirk lyrics, which the saxophonist had penned for his 1976 album The Return of the 5000 Lb. Man. “Yeah, we got our own take on it,” continues Rudd. “And that tune is so infectious it is bound to get to each musical personality in its own way. And that’s what we are. We’re four musical personalities who go together, whatever we’re playing.”
 
Victor channels her inner Betty Carter on a jaunty, swinging rendition of “Can’t We Be Friends,” which features the vocalist in some daring scat exchanges with Rudd’s muted trombone. “I think Fay started singing it one day and it just took over,” Rudd recalls. That’s it. It was just right for us.”
 
Their raucous rendition of Ray Noble’s “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You” is bristling with energy and supported by Harris’ Fats Walleresque touch on piano. Rudd explains the origins of his collaboration with Victor on this 1938 chestnut: “We wanted to do something together but we really didn't know each other that well. And she finally said, ‘Do you know, ‘I Hadn’t Anyone Till You?’ and I said, ‘Yeah! And I hadn’t been able to find anybody to play that with. So let’s do that one.’ So that brought us together. That got us started right there, doing that song. And we’ve kept that up.”
 
Filiano’s bowed bass intro to the lovely “Too Late Now” (from the 1951 Fred Astaire-Jane Powell movie Royal Wedding) showcases his low-end virtuosity while Victor reveals her romantic side in interpreting the Alan Jay Lerner lyrics. Rudd, who contributes one of his most lyrical solos of the session here, next testifies on his trombone on a chilling rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” which also features Victor in a most expressive Carmen McRae mode. “We definitely are on one accord together on that one,” said Rudd.
 
“I Look in the Mirror,” a smart, swinging, Blossom Dearie-styled ditty about accepting the aging process, was written by Rudd’s partner, Verna Gillis. “That was one of the first things we collaborated on,” says Rudd. “And I didn’t feel it as a sultry ballad or a sad song, I felt like a Dixielander on that one.”
 
The album closes with a heartfelt reading of Monk’s most beautiful ballad, “Pannonica,” a tune he composed in 1956 as a tribute to jazz patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. It’s a tune that Rudd has played countless times since 1962, when he formed a band with saxophonist Steve Lacy that specialized in Monk’s music. “I used to play ‘Pannonica’ a lot with Steve Lacy. We later recorded it together on an album we did called Monk’s Dream (2000, Verve). So I was used to playing it in Monk’s original key, which is C. But Fay came in with it in A flat, so that threw me off a little bit. Because everything lies so beautifully in that song and with Monk’s music in general that you tend to remember it where he wrote it, where he played it. So that took a little adjustment.” Victor gives a heartfelt reading of Jon Hendricks’ lyrics on this achingly beautiful ballad while Rudd turns in a remarkably expressive solo on this Monk classic.
 
Embrace is the latest chapter in the extraordinary career of the revered trombonist, who came up playing Dixieland in college before dipping into the avant grade in the early ‘60s with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, John Tchicai, Don Cherry and longtime collaborator Steve Lacy. In more recent times, the ever-adventurous Rudd has collaborated with Malian musicians (2001’s MALIcool), traditional Mongolian musicians (2005’s Blue Mongol) and Latin musicians (2007’s El Espiritu Jibaro). He gathered nine of the greatest trombonists on the scene, along with the Gangue Brass Band of Benin, for 2009’s Trombone Tribe and in 2016 he debuted on RareNoise Records with the audacious improvised outing Strength & Power. His latest for the label, schedule for a November 17th release, may be his most inspired and affecting outing to date.
Cat.No: RNR085 (CD) / RNR085LP (Double Vinyl).
 

Embrace

 

Embrace (CD)
Embrace (CD)
£8.99
Embrace (Combo)
Embrace (Combo)
£24.99
Embrace (Double LP)
Embrace (Double LP)
£16.99
Embrace (Download - HD FLAC)
Embrace (Download - HD FLAC)
£6.49
Embrace (Download - FLAC)
Embrace (Download - FLAC)
£6.49
Embrace (Download - MP3)
Embrace (Download - MP3)
£4.49