Roswell Rudd Mark Dresser AIRWALKERS

Roswell Rudd & Mark Dresser - Airwalkers


Clean Feed 66

No, it’s not an ode to a new pair of Nike footwear. Instead, this disc combines the talents of two gurus on their respective instruments, septuagenarian Rudd and fifty-something Dresser in a largely informal jam dedicated to dance forms. Trombone and bass albums are still a rare breed, but there is precedence such partnerships, most recently (and notably) on Dresser’s CIMP confab with Ray Anderson captured on Nine Songs Together. This set doesn’t quite match that one in terms of pervasive humor and self-deprecation, but it comes close. Dresser dampens his strings to create croaking juice harp effects on the opening “Calypso Lite” while Rudd plays straight man, his ‘bone open, slide lubricious, in pursuit of the gently syncopated theme. The title piece, voiced in two different versions both with ‘bone muted, traffics somber territory in slightly meandering fashion. Dresser’s strings are prominent, his knuckle-cracking patterns hanging in slow decay before ceding space to Rudd’s chimerical tailgate smears.

Possibly location-specific, “Roz MD” trades in harsh brass vocalics and more punishing pizzicato. Dresser’s bass sounds oddly pointed and coarse, but in tandem with loquacious trombone the severity and snap makes for a fine fit. With “Duality”, it’s as if Rudd has crammed an entire hubcap into his horn’s mouth, dull metallic vibrations buzzing alongside Dresser’s perambulating rubber band fingerings. The brief “Burst” is similarly saturated with small-scale tonal implosions. Rudd’s Monk inclinations find release with a drowsy explication on “Don’t Blame Me” while “Lovers Waltz” visits the duo in an uncharacteristically sentimental shared frame of mind and provides a condensed forum for Dresser’s bow. Neither man seems very concerned with polishing the play up for an audience, preferring to revel in their conversation on its own terms. As such, the results may press the patience of some listeners, but the prowess in abundance in these omnifarious improvisations is hard to deny. Like the mythical beings referenced in the disc’s title, these two make such gravity defying stunts seem second nature.

~ Derek Taylor
Posted by derek on December 6, 2006 7:01 AM

[Clean Feed Records,]

The connections made with these two records are endless. Mark Dresser played in what many would argue was Gerry Hemingway Quintet's peak moment, while Roswell Rudd and Ray Anderson [who has also played in Hemingway's groups] are both trombone players. Another alumnus of Hemingway's Quintet, Mark Helias plays the same instrument that Dresser does - the bass. Am I digging for a needle in a haystack? Now that the obvious connections have been made, let's get to the music at hand.
Going strong for the last quarter century, BassDrumBone is a trio that rarely ceases to amaze. Though they work only occasionally [when time, touring schedules and funds allow for it], their records are never an afterthought or collages of outtakes. "The Line Up" is another example of the collective craftsmanship. Helias is impressive, with plenty of swinging arco moments and crafty bass solos galore. "And Then Some" features some extended bass solos from Helias that stretch the tune out. Anderson is a powerhouse. Rumbling tones, windy farts appearing out of nowhere and those delicious melodies. All of this is wrapped up in the percussive goodness provided by Hemingway. Swinging, deliberately ear-friendly and very rambunctious, his playing only gets better as time goes by. Check out the solid hard-bop swing on "On Solid Ground". This example can be multiplied but what's the point of going through all the numbers, one by one, when the whole album is so damn solid. It helps these guys have such a rich, long musical history, which they can draw inspiration and strength from. This is one gratifying album from start to finish.
Moving from a trio into a duo scenario is lots of fun as it allows the listener to pick out further details of each musician's work. Trombonist Roswell Rudd and bassist Mark Dresser need no introduction and their work certainly needs no further re-examination but a duo record is certainly a perfect occasion to do just that. Take away a true rhythm section [bass and percussion in the traditional sense of the word] and you've got two people who need to create their own rules from scratch. Rudd more than makes up any loss felt by a lack of percussionist in the band. His feisty trombone blows are heaven sent as he blows a storm on "Roz MD", while Dresser tries to hold him down in place. That's the funny thing really, as each of the players seem to have a unique sense of sovereignty. There's no controlling faction that rules over the proceedings. While Dresser gets a fair share of the solos - brilliant finger picking and abrasive arco caresses - Rudd is up-front with his trombone blasts. I mean, why be shy when there's only two of you in the recording studio? Would that really make any sense at all? Even a pregnant ballad, like "Don't Blame Me" has its place on the record. Full of waltz-like numbers, outright rocking stuff and tender balladry, to say this record really rocks is an understatement. We need to hear more from this duo, preferably in a live setting.

- Tom Sekowski

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