Roswell Rudd

Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd at the Bird of Paradise

The new Bird of Paradise on Main Street opened on Thursday, March 30th, and on Friday had already hosted one of the greatest groups in jazz. The Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet was the perfect opening weekend act. Lacy has visited town with his trio and sextet, but the new Bird was the ideal setting for his music. Lacy's soprano sax playing is precise and measured; it is the perfect foil for Rudd's raucous and energetic trombone. Lacy's performance style is cool and intellectual, while Rudd is an eccentric showman. Longtime Lacy sidemen Jean-Jacques Avenel on bass and John Betsch on drums provided tight accompaniment, and Avenel impressed everyone with his imaginative virtuoso soloing. 

The two horn players came together many years ago to form a quartet dedicated to the interpretation of the music of Thelonious Monk, and their reunion, heralded by their recent Verve CD Monk's Dream, is also a tribute to the great pianist and composer. Several songs from that release were heard at the Bird. The ensemble passages were typically short, definitive statements of the timeless melodies created by Monk; the solos were not abstract meditations on harmony, but statements true to the beauty and quirkiness of Monk's compositions. The same held true for the other tunes they played, mostly by Lacy, but also by Ellington and others. 

The highlight of the evening was a slow blues, "Gray Blue." Rudd was majestic: his solo was a lesson in relaxed and soulful blues trombone playing. He paid tribute to other quirky masters such as Tricky Sam Nanton and Dicky Wells, but he never stooped to imitation. The best ensemble playing of the night was heard in the beautiful transition to Ellington's "KoKo" from an African-inspired song. This was the perfect way to celebrate the opening of the new Bird, and we look forward to many such evenings in the future. photograph by Lars Björn