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Review by Michael G. Nastos

Roswell Rudd's idea of a trombone army is not as pronounced as one might think when initially looking at the credits. It's not an offshoot of Slide Hampton's World of Trombones, but elaborates on the concept somewhat. Certainly Rudd's veteran status allows him to invite players of different generations who admire him, as Deborah Weisz, Sam Burtis, Josh Roseman, Eddie Bert, Ray Anderson, Wycliffe Gordon, or Steve Swell all fit that bill. Rudd apportions different lineups to play music with far reaching implications, including that of ethnic and down home, creative improvised, European, and American jazz traditions. The music constantly evolves and shapes itself in chameleon proportions, ignoring nothing that Rudd has himself experienced in his lengthy and distinguished career as an original individualist. Five tracks feature the proper Trombone Tribe, with Weisz, Swell, Rudd, Bob Stewart on tuba, bassist Ken Filiano, and drummer Barry Altschul, a quite formidable ensemble. They include a tuneful and easy swinging tribute for the recently deceased British saxophonist "Elton Dean," the appropriately titled "No End" with the bass lead of Grimes firing up trombone solos with false starts and then steamrolling solos, the samba/Latinized, warm and soulful "To the Day" with bass filling the cracks of a New Orleans-cum-central African theme, the bluesy soul-jazz "Sand in My Slide Shuffle," and the conversational, Dxieland inspired, bawdy, free, low-down, and cleverly titled "Slide & the Family Bone." Two other cuts feature Rudd and the other five trombonists, a brass phalanx of epic proportions. They do the frantic, herky-jerky, Kurt Weill circus inspired "Astroslyde" paralleling bass note informed East European bands, while "Hulla Gulla" is a blues up and down motif derived from a bottom end vamp. Trumpeter Steven Bernstein and Sexmob goof up � la Thelonious Monk in New Orleans during "Twelve Bars," the famous Herbie Nichols march tune laced with the alto sax of Briggan Krauss, while Bonerama get their kicks on the funky strut "Bone Again," with Matt Perrine's sousaphone doing the dirty deed. The final five-piece suite and the introductory fanfare has Rudd working with Gangbe, the world music brass group from Benin, in short, thematic bursts based in joyous shouts, the religious Doxology precept, dance to spiritual music, tuba with vocal chanting, and a modal improvisation, again via Monk. They playing from top to bottom is fantastic, diversity the watchword as you would expect, and the cohesion of all the groups quite enjoyable from track to track, and never boring. It's a genuine triumph for Roswell Rudd in the golden years of a very successful occupancy in modern music, and comes highly recommended.
By Raul d'Gama Rose
The trombone is perhaps the only brass instrument that can—if well played—capture a devastating array of human emotions. It can be made to wail plaintively and growl menacingly. It can be played to sing and make extraordinary leaps of joy, even evoke hallelujahs and other spiritual epiphanies with breathtaking abandon. But it must be played with mastery and few do so better than Roswell Rudd, a musician and instrumentalist who consistently describes the sorrows and joys of human existence every time he picks up his trombone and plays. Moreover, every time Rudd plays he appears to connect the metaphorical dots of musical history—not merely in the idiom of jazz, but even beyond that from the world of so-called classical music.

It appears that music flows through Rudd, coursing through his veins and flowering his breath as it twists through the 14 feet of brass tubing and out that bell at the end of his chosen instrument. On Trombone Tribe, Roswell Rudd is, once again, on top of his game. He has created a series of songs that traverse myriad geographies, bubbling over through the soul of the vast human Diaspora—from Africa—as in "Fanfare," that is crafted and performed with unforgettable passion by the Gangbe Brass Band, to New Orleans in the minor march, "Hulla Gulla" and back again in the spacey, orbital "Bone Again With Bonerama."

His stellar romps—through guttural yowls and growls—in "Astro Slyde," "Sand In My Slide Shuffle," and "Slide and the Family Bone" are impossible to listen to without the irrepressible urge to leap up and dance. "Elton Dean," the sketch of the fabled English trombonist, breaks fresh ground in the realm of jazz odes. "Twelve Bars with Sexmob" is a wildly funny and magnificent exchange with an exciting group of musicians who push the envelope in funky territory. And the suite, "A Place Above" revisits the vibrant praise and worship that can only be found in the unabashed and total communion of an African church.

Rudd would be the first to deflect attention from himself and allow the stellar cast of musicians to bask in the bright glory of Trombone Tribe, and justifiably so. "Bonerama" is a case in point, where the empathetic exchanges between the trombones, drums and guitar are almost telepathic, as is the work of almost every other musician grouping in the record, be it Ray Anderson, Wycliffe Gordon, Eddie Bert, Josh Roseman and others on "Astro Slyde" and "Hulla Gulla," or Rudd, Deborah Weisz and Steve Swell with bassist Henry Grimes' unparalleled arco break on "Sand In My Slide Shuffle" and tubaist Bob Stewart and drummer Barry Altschul on "No End" and "To The Day." Here is music that is memorable for its almost passacaglia-like quality and its humor as well. It appears that Roswell Rudd can, once again, do no wrong with song and dance that carries the delightful weight of musical history.
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