Rudy Royston – Flatbed Buggy – Greenleaf Music GRE-CD-1065 – 61:09 ****:
(Rudy Royston – drums; John Ellis – bass clarinet, saxophones; Gary Versace – accordion; Hank Roberts – cello; Joe Martin – bass)
On his new CD, set to be released later this month, drummer, Rudy Royston, enters rare territory in combining bass clarinet with accordion, and cello to explore his summers spent out in the country in rural Texas. The use of these instruments, not found often in traditional jazz settings, help broaden the musical palette to enter chamber music motifs.
Maria Schneider has helped explore country memories with much larger orchestration, but here Royston accomplishes much the same with only the addition of bass (Joe Martin) to form a quintet that sounds much larger to the ear.
On Flatbed Buggy, there is room for full improvisation, as the quintet blends seamlessly, and the interplay keeps the mood invigorating. Gary Versace is a master musician on accordion, and when he “converses” with John Ellis’ bass clarinet, and Hank Robert’s cello, sparks fly and there is not a dull moment. When jazz enters classical chamber music realms with jazz swing overtones, all is well, to both intrigue and challenge a curious listener. Joe Martin’s steady bass, and Royston’s drum expertise complete the experience, and it is easy to place yourself in an open field bouncing along on that flatbed buggy.
“Soul Train” begins our journey, and is a good mood setter. The accordion and bass clarinet set shifting tonal contrasts, and Rudy is there with accents, while Joe Martin provides the steady heart beat. At about the six minute mark, Hank Roberts’ bowed cello steps in, and a sense of buoyancy emerges as the energy accelerates. Next, on the title track, there is a strong sense of swing and a great shuffle beat by Royston.
“boy…MAN” is somber and feels like a journey beginning slowly. It has a blues feel with the cello and bass taking lead. “Twirler” shifts into an elegant stroll led by the bass clarinet. “Hourglass” plays off a repetitive riff and digs in deep, asserting itself in tempo as the grains of sand in the hourglass diminish.
“Bobblehead” features a hearty drum solo, and John Ellis’ soprano sax. It’s taken at a gallop. “girl…WOMAN” is a counterpart to the boy/man tune above, and it is a chamber jazz blend with an edgy “noirish” mysterious vibe highlighted by Versace’s accordion.
There is a lot to like here, and Royston succeeds in setting a mood to explore one’s happy youth experiences with instruments seldom found together in a jazz setting.
The Roadside Flowers
Hold My Mule
I Guess It’s Time to Go