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In December, 2002, a musical friend of Roswell’s named Lincoln Stoller, called to tell him that two throat singers from Mongolia were visiting in the United States and were in fact in his local area.

The two musicians were Odsuren, a master throat singer in his late 50’s, with his protégé Battuvshin Baldantseren, a handsome young man in his late 20’s.

They visited Roswell in his home in Kerhonkson, NY one evening and started improvising together – two throat singers and a trombone. It was an acoustician’s dream –the three components worked with overtones as well as with notes and melody. Both throat singing and trombone playing have a common source – they both derive from the existence of a very strong , real low bass note (called a fundamental). The trombonist and the throat singer share the task of resonating the very high overtones, resulting in a high pitched eerie melody – in fact) two sounds (overtones and fundamental) at the same time. The mid-ranged sounds are avoided in order to emphasize the extreme high and the extreme low. This gives off a very mysterious and hallucinatory disorienting effect – somewhat like a ventriloquist who can throw his voice so that the listener can’t believe that the sound is in fact all coming from one source. This is throat singing –

The trombone derives from the same acoustical principles – the total composition of its sound includes the extremely low and extremely high sounds. With the help of mutes and shaping the mouth cavity to emphasize the overtones, much in the same manner as a throat singer, the trombone also provides a mid range of pitches that contrast beautifully with the extremes of the throat singing.

This first musical meeting was a revelation to all three musicians and Roswell sat in with them when they performed the following night at the Colony in Woodstock, NY.

Battuvshin, whose nick name is Tuvsho, self taught in English, is particularly musically adventurous and he and Roswell agreed that there was a great musical universe to be explored between them just in terms of the sounds.

This opportunity presented itself in the spring of 2004 when Tuvsho reappeared with the group Badma Khanda who were touring in the United States representing an art gallery from Moscow. They visited Roswell several times in his home where they were able to mix their sounds and from this experience Roswell began to compose songs that were like pentatonic jazz, meaning in the pentatonic flavor with a jazz feel. This visit resulted in going to the studio and recording four songs, and a performance at Satalla in NYC which mostly featured the repertoire of Badma Khanda, which Roswell calls “Art Folk” - modern arrangements of authentic traditional Buryat melodies performed here by musicians of the tradition who
also have conservatory training and are highly musically literate. The Buryats are one Mongolian ethnic group.

In the fall of 2004, with support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, we were able to bring them back to continue the collaboration, recording the rest of the CD, and having a premiere performance of the newly formed entity now called Roswell Rudd and the Pentatonics (or the Trombolians!) at the Rubin Museum in New York City. We have now changed the name to Badma Khanda - the Mongolian Buryat Band!

This concert was reviewed by Laurence Donohue-Greene in All About Jazz and then voted One of the Best Concerts of 2004 in that same publication. An auspicious beginning!

The process of musical fusion between Roswell Rudd, a legendary jazz improvisor, and Badma Khanda, a folk ensemble, sets up an alchemy into a new music that they have created. Rudd spent thirty years on and off as a staff ethnomusicologist to Alan Lomax in his various world music projects. Rudd’s earlier collaboration, MALIcool, also reflects his unique sensibility and ability to project himself and infuse himself into other worldly musical cultures.

Tuvsho played the CD for his parents, who are both national treasures of pure traditional Mongolian music. They loved what they heard and said that Roswell was using the traditional Mongolian instruments in a new way.

We hope the listener will become part of this exciting process.

Verna Gillis

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