Remembering Roswell Rudd

Roswell Rudd (1935-2017)

Paying tribute to the adventurous trombonist

Roswell Rudd (Nov. 17, 1935 –Dec. 21, 2017) had a diverse, episodic and colorful career as an open-minded jazz trombonist.

Born in Sharon, Connecticut, he attended Yale University where he played and recorded two albums during 1955-57 with some of his fellow students in the Dixieland band Eli’s Chosen Six.

From Dixieland, Rudd immediately jumped into the avant-garde, recording with bassist Buell Niedlinger (a friend since high school) and Cecil Taylor in 1961

He co-led a quartet with soprano-saxophonist Steve Lacy during 1962-63 that exclusively played Thelonious Monk songs, recorded New York Eye and Ear Control with Albert Ayler, was a member of the New York Art Quartet in 1964-65, and was an important part of tenor-saxophonist Archie Shepp’s groups during 1966-67.

Rudd paved the way for other avant-garde trombonists, using the expressive qualities he had formed in traditional jazz to play free music.

A member of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, Rudd teamed up with Steve Lacy on an irregular but memorable basis, worked with Carla Bley, and led several groups of his own through the years, helping to generate interest in the music of Herbie Nichols.

Although he spent time off the scene and in obscurity, Rudd’s final decade was filled with all types of unusual and rewarding musical projects.

This unusual film clip features Rudd and his singer Sunny Kim singing about cancer and mortality in a surprisingly upbeat way written by his wife Verna Gillis.

-Scott Yanow