The liner notes of the Dutch duo of reeds master Ab Baars and trombonist Joost Buis touching homage to the late, great trombonist Roswell Rudd are very short. The notes quote a short email from Rozzy (aka Rudd) and his wife Vern (aka Verna Gillis) to Baars, addressing the idea of the album, based on compositions of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, at the beginning of 2017. Rudd and Gillis wrote: «Ring, Zing, Bing, King, Dinga Ling Dong Song / Nothing like Ellingtonia anywhere anytime» on January 16, 2017.
«Moods for Roswell» was recorded on October 12, 2017, about a month before Rudd passed away on December 21, 2017. The reference for Duke Ellington seminal «mood»y standard, «In a Sentimental Mood», is obvious, recorded by Rudd in Archie Shepp’s classic «Live in San Francisco» (Impulse, 1966), and arranged by Baars and Buis here. But Rudd liked to play another classic «mood»y standard, Thelonious Monk’s «Monks’ Mood», recorded by the Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet (aka School Days quartet) on several occasions.
The liner notes of «Moods for Roswell» do not mention that Baars Trio hosted Rudd on its «Four» (DATA, 2001) and on «Party at the Bimhuis – The 10 Years Ab Baars Trio» (Wig, 2003) or previous collaborations between Baars and Buis, most important one was the recording of «Kinda Dukish» (Wig, 2005) of Baars Trio with Buis performing interpretations of Ellington’s classics. These notes take for granted that we all aware of Rudd’s role as one of the most influential trombonists in the history of jazz, especially in free jazz, and his work with pianists Herbie Nichols and Cecil Taylor, the New York Art Quartet and the first incarnation of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra.
«Moods for Roswell», the thirtieth release on Baars and partner Ig Henneman’s Wig label, features ten compositions of Baars and Buis, all are free adaptions of compositions by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The intimate duo pays justified respects to Rudd’s fluid, singing tone, always following the natural flow of the song, but introduces Ellington and Strayhorn to one the most charming European sceneries, Böhmerwald (The Bohemian Forest, one of the oldest European forests), the subject of Baars, Rudd and Gillis correspondence.
The sophisticated, playful melodies of Ellington and Strayhorn take leisured walks in the rich traditions of European chamber music and classic dance music, and one detour to Far Eastern meditative music. Baars and Buis know the Ellington and Strayhorn standards inside-out, and their heartfelt adaptations play poetic games with the memorable themes, letting royal waltzes intervene organically with fiery, free jazz duel or bluesy groove. Most likely, you will never listen elsewhere to such a spellbinding version of «In a Sentimental Mood», played by Baars on the Japanese bamboo flute, shakuhachi, associated with Zen Buddhism, with minimalist breaths of Buis. This duo may add an eccentric-ironic blow but most of the time, simply make these themes their own. And doing so with engaging elegance, moving passion, and the wisdom and profound experience of two true masters.
Simply beautiful, and beauty, as you may already know, is indeed a rare thing.
Ab Baars (ts, cl, shakuhachi), Joost Buis (tb)