The Incredible Honk
An international flavor permeates the trombonist's latest
The Many Moods of Rudd? Around the World With Roswell? Either alternative title would suit this easygoing tour de force, an assortment of the idioms and ethnic styles the trombonist has embraced since re-emerging in the ’90s from obscurity in Catskill resort bands. Put your player on shuffle and see where you’ll land: In New Orleans, living it up with BeauSoleil? Or Cuba, harmonizing with singer-guitarist David Oquendo? In China, going traditional with sheng player and vocalist Wu Tong of the Silk Road Ensemble? Or in a Manhattan cabaret, backing South Korean singer Sunny Kim on a Brechtian ballad by London’s Tiger Lillies?
What’s notable about The Incredible Honk is how comfortable Rudd is in all of these settings, which also include Mali, Germany and old Ireland. Aside from mixing cultures, he plays things straight, putting his broad, buttery sound in service of melody and letting his supporting players meet him halfway—not that his recurring pianist Lafayette Harris has to do much stretching on Rudd’s bluesy “Waltzin’ With My Baby.”
Though fans of Rudd’s unhinged free-jazz playing may prefer it to what’s on The Incredible Honk, it’s hard not to derive pleasure from his globetrotting. On “Kerhonkson: The Muse-ical,” a “one-song musical,” he even lays down “coyote and other sound effects.” At 76, Rudd knows the value of humor, as entertainer and jazz survivor.