Roswell Rudd & Duck Baker Great American Music

Articles & Press

PERSONAL STATEMENTS

DB - I've always felt challenged by all kinds of American music, from old time mountain music to gospel, blues and rag time to our swing and modern jazz styles. But it's not easy to find other musicians who like blurring the lines that are drawn between these styles because most people focus on one kind of music. Playing with Roswell Rudd not only gives me a chance to work with someone with long experience with many styles of jazz but brings me into contact with someone who learned directly from many of the music's greats. Most people know about Ros' involvement with free jazz and Dixieland style, but he also is one of the few modern jazz musicians to have a real deep appreciation of traditional forms. I remember reading an article Roswell wrote for Downbeat in the '60's about what is now called World Music. At the time I was mostly playing rag time, blues, and things like that and I thought it was great that there were other people who wanted to bridge that gap. I certainly never imagined that I would get to do it in a performance situation with Roswell. Since we first started working on this project it's taken on a life of its own so at first we were working on the problems of arranging for this unusual instrumental combination and trying to find ways of playing as many of the sounds as we could but at some point the idea of presenting American music started to direct us and now we'we looking at ways to fill in that picture and hopefully we'll be able to find ways to continue to do it because we can already see the huge vistas that we're only hinting at.

Right now we're letting the music take certain stylistic focuses like gospel tunes, blues, show tunes, etc but we also like to free associate with material that's organized more arbitrarily; songs that have people's names or place names in the titles or songs that share a musical characteristic like minor keys.

RR - The approach that Duck Baker and I are taking makes me feel sometimes like I am 15 years old and want to show my friends all the latest songs that I know. It seems that all the great improvisors that I've ever had contact with have collected so much music in their heads during their lifes off the radio, from street performances, from shows, from school and church - the list is endless and yet this vast musical treasury remains concealed in their improvisations except when they do something called "quoting." The two foremost American composers that come to mind as the greatest "colloginists" of all time, are Charles Ives and Spike Jones. That's why they have always appealed so much to me. There is something magical about familiar fragments of melody juxtaposed and timed in a certain way that has always fascinated me.

The process of performing in this mode of "collogination" is more about bringing the vast collective of known melody to the surface and then both selecting and performing pieces of themes simultaneously.

Working with a master of acoustic guitar, the key is to be able to hear everything that he is doing and at the same time to be playing an instrument with a very dense and weighty sound. In fact, the success of performing the way that we will be in this concert depends both upon intense concentration on the combined sound of what we're doing in the moment with a spirited recalling of appropriate folk hymns.

Duck Baker is the ideal partner for performing this way because he has such a great command of his instrument and a vast knowledge of American themes.


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