Roswell Rudd Mark Dresser AIRWALKERS

clean feed 2006

Roswell Rudd / Mark Dresser AIRWALKERS

[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 Gazeta

ROSWELL RUDD / MARK DRESSER - Airwalkers (Clean Feed)

This is an album that leaves no space for misconceptions, "the result" (to quote Rudd's words) "of Dresser's insatiable appetite to play and, coincidentally, the fueling of my own appetite". With a duo like this, a falling-off of the quality level is out of question. Through nine (mostly improvised) pieces, Rudd's trombone and Dresser's double bass negotiate the readmittance to a world where "melody" still has a meaning; yet, there's still time to trace many furrows on its face, expressing the necessity of pushing the dialogue through the routes of lively irony, intelligible dissonance and illusory easy listening. The couple plays a few lines and, just like that, sparkles of effervescent humour fill the air. As Dresser says, Rudd destroys the tendency to "saxophonize the trombone" in jazz, performing the task with luscious tones and unconventional phraseologies which are a joy to listen to. The bassist rouses the low-frequency responding systems of our organic being by alternating kinky fingerings and abrupt arcoed scars while keeping a simulacrum of "swing" in sight for the ones who could feel lost in the party. "Airwalkers" is a fine demonstration of technical command enriched by gimlet-eyed musical intelligence. It must be played loud.

Massimo Ricci

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


ROSWELL RUDD & MARK DRESSER – Airwalkers (Clean Feed): Arguably our greatest living jazz trombonist, Roswell Rudd, an elder statesman of the '60s free- jazz scene, creates a lively exchange with the younger bassist Mark Dresser. It's based on an intriguing premise: What happens when a blisteringly eclectic trombonist and dramatically versatile bassist improvise on traditional forms such as the waltz or calypso? The result is a fearless and often giddying adventure into the far reaches of how each instrument can surprisingly sound as they dance about each other gleefully. Grade: B+

Norman Weinstein, The Christian Science Monitor February 16, 2007

Roswell Rudd & Mark Dresser
Air Walkers
Clean Feed

Roswell Rudd’s resumé is a long and storied one, including recordings with Steve Lacy, John Tchicai and Archie Shepp, along with over a dozen discs of his own. But this pioneer of trombone in avant garde and free jazz is especially at home in this duo meeting with bassist Mark Dresser, who has a classical background, but left the symphony to work extensively as a leader and sideman on numerous avant garde jazz dates. The songs are originals and improvisations, except for one miscredited standard, a loping, relatively straight ahead interpretation of Jimmy McHugh’s “Don’t Blame Me”. The duo’s musical journey takes them through a variety of influences from around the world, from the catchy Caribbean flavor of the boisterous, offbeat “Calypso Lite” to the wild “Pregnant Pauses” that has a bit of an Oriental air in spots and the humorous “Burst” with Rudd’s laugh-like mute work. But the obvious highlights are the two takes of the title track, in which both Rudd and Dresser are at their most expressive. Even those who normally shy away from experimental music will find these compelling performances to be very accessible.

By Ken Dryden
All About Jazz April, 2007

Tracks On Disk:

  • Calypso Lite
  • Airwalkers Take 2
  • Pregnant Pauses
  • Ros MD
  • Duality
  • Burst
  • Don't Blame Me
  • Lovers Waltz
  • Airwalkers Take 1

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