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Roswell Rudd: Blue Mongol

The 70-year-old trombonist Roswell Rudd has had as varied a late career as any jazz musician in recent memory. In the past few years, he’s recorded tributes to his mentor, the great Herbie Nichols, reunited with longtime allies Steve Lacy and Sheila Jordan, played duets with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, collaborated with a group of Malian master musicians and now, with this disc, joined forces with a quintet known as the Mongolian Buryat Band.

Rudd’s playing is stellar throughout. He’s known as the father of the free-jazz trombone, but that’s far too limiting: Rudd’s pinpoint control captures deep emotional resonance; it’s no wonder that his style is such an easy blend for many different settings. This disc is a somewhat uneven affair. When Rudd is matched with throat singer Battuvshin Baldantseren, the complementary tones intertwine in unexpected ways, and the results are magical. Other times the results seem a tad facile, such as “Buryat Boogie,” or too precious, as on “The Gathering Light,” which is overly lush and cinematic.

Fortunately the lesser tracks are outnumbered by stellar work like the title track, which features commanding trombone and intense, bravura vocals by Badma Khanda. The recording leaves a sense that after 50 years on the scene, Rudd’s best music is still ahead of him.

Originally Published