Roswell Rudd, Jamie Saft, Trevor Dunn, Balazs Pandi – Strength and Power (2016)

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Roswell Rudd’s first record came out in 1965; Jamie Saft, Trevor Dunn and Balazs Pandi weren’t even born yet. And yet, the years between Rudd and his new bandmates melt away in that wonderful cross-generational thing called telepathy when the four convened in Saft’s home studio to spontaneously and collectively make some jazz noises. Strength and Power, the harvest from these Woodstock, NY-area sessions, is a union of one, eighty-year-old avant-garde power from the generation of Steve Lacy and Cecil Taylor (two of Rudd’s past musical partners) with leading lights from the current generation of outside jazz.

The pianist Saft, acoustic bassist Dunn and drummer Pandi engage with the premier free jazz trombonist so easily, and Rudd has a simple explanation for that: everyone is listening well. “I really found myself delving deeply on this occasion because the other musicians were not only putting it out there but they were also responding in depth,” Rudd reveals. “When you’re lucky enough to be in the company of very proficient musicians who not only can play but also can listen deeply, this is what I think I love more than anything else in the performance of music.”

Rudd plays both peer and leader, knowing when to blend in and knowing when to grab the reins. He makes his initial entrance on the title song after about three minutes have already transpired, but when it happens, the younger guys feed off of the defined sense of direction Rudd provides and the groove they had already started with gains more purpose. Using a plunger, Rudd is soon immersing himself completely with band, and Saft improvises right alongside him as both find their portals and lunge in. After the song culminates after a long build-up, the rhythm section finds a jagged groove and Saft gets inside his piano.

Yes, inside his piano. To be sure, the mere presence of Rudd gives Strength and Power some distinction, but Saft’s direct attack on the piano strings creates another unique characteristic to ponder. Pandi and Dunn conjure up an infectious commotion on drums and bass for “The Bedroom” and Rudd, plunger now disposed of, leaps in. But as everyone is bringing down the thunder, Saft is wresting odd timbres from his piano from the clicking sounds made when the strings are struck. Later, on “Dunn’s Falls,” he somehow crafts this ghostly resonance from the sweeps across the swings, and on the ‘ballad’ of the bunch “Luminescent,” Saft is able to invoke the beauty of a harp.

The quartet occupies the opposing sides of the jazz spectrum on “Struttin’ For Jah Jah.” Rudd makes some references to his early Dixieland playing days amid the dissonance, eventually inspiring Saft to break out a little bit of stride piano, and Dunn keeps a steady pulse that enables Pandi to constantly break out of his timekeeping. It’s 1920’s free jazz.

Look for Strength and Power to go on sale February 26, 2016 at your favorite record outlet, courtesy of RareNoise Records.


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