Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balazs Pandi

Strength and Power
RareNoise Records RNR 059

So many platitudes about age and creativity have to be set aside when dealing with trombonist Roswell Rudd/Jamie that he’s practically a geriatric case study on his own. From the beginning of Jazz emphatic improvisers often managed to preserve their techniques and enthusiasm for many decades. Yet at 80, almost 60 years after he first recorded, it’s the brass man who roars out of the gate on this session and keeps his associates – pianist Jamie Saft, 44, bassist Trevor Dunn, 47 and drummer Balazs Pandi, 32 – scrambling to keep up with him. For Rudd alone, the disc is sensibly titled Strength and Power.

Like hoofers who suddenly reveal skills as vocalists, the back-up trio also demonstrate another side of their talents. Usually linked to the stubbier sustained rhythms of rock-influenced playing – especially the Hungarian Pandi – they function throughout as bone fide jazzers, albeit a little burly in the keyboard and percussion lick department. Despite the inference on “Dunn's Falls”, the bassist never does so. Instead he wood smacks and string saws with appropriate invention on that track, and throughout maintains the walking pace of a mid-1950s Paul Chambers or Ray Brown. Like a sleigh dog suddenly out of harness, Pandi can’t completely abandon fealty to Rock’s crunching beat. But luckily when he bears down on the kit it’s more like hearing Gene Krupa on “Sing, Sing, Sing” than John Bonham on “Whole Lotta Love”.

Welcomed without reservation to Metal-like and Reggae-inflected situations, Saft is the very model of a jobbing Jazz pianist here, avoiding the obvious, but preserving the narrative flow. At points, as on “The Bedroom”, his particular response to the yelping and yawning ejaculations emanating from the trombonist is to emulate the lover who excites by withholding pleasure. His exposition involves plucking and stopping internal piano strings as well as the appropriate t amount of pressure exerted on the keys. Even when the four handle a ballad such as “Luminescent”, the results are more lively than lachrymose. The diaphanous theme is taken moderato, while like a graffiti artist facing a blank wall Rudd splashes the result with slide colors.

Putting aside any celesta-like shadings from Saft most of the other tracks find his playing in a trajectory that encompasses Classic Jazz pacing, Blues-boogie ripples and Boppish comping. Pushing expositions to logical conclusions is steady double bass work. Meanwhile when he’s not contemplating and/or replicating textures from the other instruments, Rudd sets out to busily fill any remaining space. Never overbearing, but skilful enough to mate JJ Johnson’s speed with Tricky Sam Nanton’s slide coloration, Rudd is like a weightlifter who appears to have loaded his bar with as many plates as it can handle then piles on another for added density. His waterfalls of note and cacophonous upsurge into rewarding summations are put into boldest relief on the introductory title track.

Stretching out to 18 minutes plus, “Strength and Power” is a textbook example of how to construct a Free-ish Jazz performance. It’s Ike a racing car that has to be properly stroked to move at top speed. Rudd’s gutbucket smears and capillary wails explode after three minutes to join unconnected piano plinks and drum judders. Like the official firing the pistol to begin a race, Dunn’s vigorous strokes prominently move the narrative along. Collectively the others’ comments on the theme are like conversation heard by the runners as they race. Attacking his drums as if wielding brass knuckles, Pandi intersects with Saft’s frenetic key clipping. Dense and passionate Rudd’s tailgate slurs provide the perfect counterpoint, eventually quoting “La Marseillaise” and his own “Rosmosis” before completing his solo. The end result is a track that is kinetic, knotty and kindly supportive all at once.

In short there’s no Jazz generation gap as long as Strength and Power includes Rudd.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Strength & Power 2. Cobalt Is Divine 3. The Bedroom 4. Luminescent 5. Dunn's Falls 6. Struttin’ For Jah Jah

Personnel: Roswell Rudd (trombone); Jamie Saft (piano); Trevor Dunn (bass) and Balazs Pandi (drums)