Monday, May 30, 2016

CD Review: Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balazs Pandi - Strength & Power

Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balazs Pandi
Strength & Power

Octagenarian trombonist Roswell Rudd shows no signs of slowing down. He recently released August Love Song, an album with Heather Masse, a vocalist known largely as a regular on A Prairie Home Companion. While Rudd fits comfortably in a more conventional setting like that one, he still claims ownership to a bold, brassy sound attack that excels in free settings.

That's exactly what happened when he teamed up with Jamie Saft (here on acoustic piano), Trevor Dunn (bass) and Balazs Pandi (drums). At Saft's home studio, the tapes rolled, the band cut loose and Strength and Power reveals the results. The pianist opens the session and the title track with some gentle probing lines. Rudd begins in the background, adding commentary with a wah-wah mute as Dunn and Pandi create suspense. Eventually the mute comes out, and while Rudd expounds mostly in short phrases, they come in authoritative bursts. Throughout the 18-minute track, the group investigates the space between each other, often playing in parallel lines, but the mood is still joyous.

Saft adds to the drive of "The Bedroom" by manipulating the strings of his instrument, creating some strong percussive clatter. "Luminescent" presents evidence that free improvisers can create a ballad with delicate beauty. The opening 30 seconds especially create some strong electricity between the musicians. Rudd later makes a rhythmic suggestion that could have sparked more band synapses, but Pandi - who would have been the person to follow it - doesn't take the bait. The music still delivers fire, but it again seems like the quartet is playing together but they aren't always reacting to one another.

By album closer "Struttin' for Jah Jah" they seem more in tune, mentally. Operating with more of a pronounced 4/4 pulse, Pandi toys with a free bop and a New Orleans shuffle while Dunn dances around him. Saft stabs at chords, coming off like Jazz Advance-era Cecil Taylor. Then there's Rudd - breathing fire that has a vocal quality to it, which is accentuated by the "yeah" he wails on a break between lines. It proves that a veteran player can match wits with three 30- and 40-something players. While things could be a little more pronounced, Strength & Power still has plenty of strong moments. And it appears that Rudd is hopeful for both a follow-up and some live work, so keep an eye on this conglomeration.

This album is available on CD and double-vinyl, as well as other digital formats.

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