Numatik, Baby

Roswell Rudd and The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra
Plays Numatik Swing Band
JCOA : 1973

RR, trombone, French horn; Carlos Ward, alto sax; Dewey Redman, tenor sax, clarinet; Perry Robinson, clarinet; Enrico Rava, Michael Krasnov, and Mike Lawrence, trumpet; Janet Donaruma, Jeffrey Schlegel, and Sharon Freeman, French horn; Art Baron and Gary Brocks, trombone; Howard Johnson and Bob Stewart, tuba; Charles Davis, soprano and baritone sax; Mike Bresler, piccolo, flute, soprano sax; Martin Alter, flute, oboe, alto sax; Hod O’Brien, piano; Charlie Haden and Sirone, bass; Beaver Harris, drums; Sue Evans, percussion.

Chilly Jay Chill: The personnel on these Jazz Composer’s Orchestra albums from the 60s and 70s are always fairly mind-blowing. This is one of their most obscure releases, but it still has major dudes like Roswell Rudd, Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Sirone, and Beaver Harris – plus you’ve got exceptional musicians like Perry Robinson, Enrico Rava, and Carlos Ward making the scene. Is there anything remotely similar happening today?

Drew LeDrew: The first thing that comes to mind is William Parker’s Little Huey Orchestra… also, in a next-gen vein, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society Band. All very self-sufficient and artist directed, if not as “international all-star” as the JCO.

CJC: It seems rare these days that so-called big names have time to be part of a large ensemble like this. Or maybe it’s just not financially feasible to put such things together anymore and the collective spirit of the JCO manifests at a smaller level in necessarily smaller ensembles?

DLD: Of course, even back then, the JCO albums themselves were fairly sporadic. It’s nice to see Roswell Rudd who’s best known for his gigs as a sideman, stepping to the fore here. He’s got to be one of the crucial linchpins holding “the tradition” together with “The New Thing.” His instrument may help with this — so flexible, so redolent of be-striped Dixieland bands — but also his straight-up swinging approach.

CJC: Good point. With “Circulation” it sort of feels like the New Thing has become the tradition. Or vice versa? It’s hard to tease out the swing from the skronk, the sonic tapestry is so finely woven that the “out” elements tend to sound normalized, at least at a casual listen.

DLD: “Vent” has the great throat-clearing properties of some of the wonderful early Art Ensemble of Chicago tracks, if perhaps with more simultaneous brass happening.

CJC: In that throat-clearing way, it’s a perfect album opener! Through our FMP offerings, we’ve been immersing ourselves in the world of Globe Unity Orchestra lately. They were a concurrent big band effort and its interesting to hear how the diffuse soundscape of “Vent” sits comfortably alongside their work while “Circulation” is something else entirely. You feel a strong difference a difference between the two bands?

DLD: I guess I hear/see Jazz Composer’s Orchestra as a straightforward “jazz band” that is extending the tradition as it warps it to its own ends. Globe Unity feels more like a response to a jazz band — a “jazz” “band,” if that makes any sense. While similarly aware of the tradition, there is a distance from it that enables GUO to start from a different place entirely. I hesitate to say that there is more “freedom” on the GUO bandstand, but there is a unfettered quality for sure. JCO might have the edge in pure joy, though.

CJC: Lastly, how cute is that cover photo?

DLD: I’m gonna wager that the word “adorable” is under-used in the free jazz lexicon.

Category Jazz Composer's Orchestra, Roswell Rudd