Roswell Rudd and The Jazz Composer's Orchestra,
"Numatik Swing Band"
JCOA LP 1007
I'd expected a lot more. The release of a Jazz Composer's Orchestra opus is an event worth waiting for. Their first release was a 2-disc free form explosión that featured pianist Cecil Taylor, guitarist Larry Coryell and Pharoah Sanders on tenor sax. "Escalator Over The HUI" pianist composer Carla Bley's and poet Paul Haine's 3-disc “Chronotransduction" is a sphinx-like monolith consisting of equal musical, theatrical, and metaphysical proportions. It was fïnally released in the spring of 1972 after three years of planning and recording and featured the lik.es of Charlie Haden, Gato Barbieri, Linda Ronstadt, Jack Bruce, John McLaughlin, Howard Johnson, Don Preston, Don Cherry, Viva, and a dozen other luminaries. Trumpeter Don Cherry's "Relatively Suite ", released in 1973, was a diverting amalgam of advanced Western jazz improvisation and Eastern rhythmic serenity. Taken together, the JCO has compiled a remarkable body of work. Sadly, "Numatik Swing Band" adds little weight to that corpus.
The JCO is a non-profit, self-determination effort. Because of a number of complex reasons, not the least of which is the Orchestra 's size and the limited creative music scène even in New York, the JCO gets together these days to give workshops and to record only when in receipt of a grant from some deluded foundation. Last year they commissioned trombonist/composer Rudd to create works for the Orchestra. Rudd, known and admired principally for the hard playing he did with Archie Shepp's groups in the Sixties, pretty much falls on his face here as a composer and date leader.
The major thing is that the Numatik Swing Band doesn't swing. As much swinging as goes on is to the credit of the rhythm section and the soloists. Rudd's ensemble scoring, though occasionally powerful, is mostly repetitious and limited. Thad Jones, of the Jones Lewis Big Band, for one, would have made far more diverse and colorful use of the rich resources-two dozen exceptional musicians-assembled here. And on top of the weak writing, what is written is executed imprecisely & sloppily. There was a week of open rehearsals held prior to the recording date at NYU's Loeb Student Center in July, 1973, but it just wasn't enough time, apparently. The whole event is poorly recorded, too.
Flashes of saving grace are provided by vocalist (and ex-Detroiter) Sheila Jordán, on "Lullaby for Greg," who carnes this dirge with style and strength, for as long as she participates. Dewey Redman, on tenor, also manages to kick up some dust on the same tune. "Aerosphere" is the strongest cut on the album by virtue of the straight ahead cooking of Charlie Haden and Sirone, basses, Beaver Harris, drums, Enrico Rava, solo trumpet, and Charles Davis, solo tenor. I'm sorry, but Rudd should never have been given this date. Anyway, the JCOA shouldn't have released it. It does damage to the individual musicians involved, including Roswell, and far more to the deservedly-respected organization they are representing.