Born in 1935, trombonist Roswell Rudd is both a consummate jazz musician and a jazz anomaly. While he got his start playing New Orleans-style traditional jazz, Rudd made his sizable rep playing with the crème de la crème of the Sixties avant-garde, including icons Steve Lacy, Cecil Taylor, and Archie Shepp. But while many players his age are content to stay in their niche, Rudd has continued to expand his repertoire. Since 2000, his albums have featured folk musicians from Mali and Mongolia as well as the entirety of Sonic Youth.
Despite the title, Trombone for Lovers is not music for a dim-the-lights smooch session. Rudd puts his instrument where his money is, transforming standards into newly faceted gems. Santo & Johnny’s dreamy guitar instrumental “Sleepwalk” is recast as a sultry blues number with Rudd “crooning” brusquely through his horn, evoking the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s classic Thirties ballads. The cowboy anthem “Ghost Riders in the Sky” becomes a slice of groovin’ soul jazz with N’awlins overtones, thanks to John Medeski’s chunky, high-calorie Hammond B-3 textures. “Green Onions” keeps its funky Memphis groove while Rudd struts jaggedly, former Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas contributes some nearly demented slide playing, and former Berkeley whiz Steven Bernstein mixes Freddie Hubbard bristle and Louis Armstrong soul. “Tennessee Waltz” alternates between Rudd’s burlesquing ‘bone and Michael Doucet’s country-tinged Cajun fiddle. Rudd pays tribute to the breadth of American music (plus a Beatles chestnut) with affection and satire. If Lovers were any more fun, it’d need to require a prescription. (Sunnyside)