Blue Mongol

Roswell Rudd

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Blue Mongol Review

by Thom Jurek

Wow! Simply put, this recording is almost indescribable. Master trombonist Roswell Rudd teams with a Mongolian ensemble that renamed itself for this outing, and over two recording sessions has come up with 13 completely unique and utterly original tunes that come from either traditional sources or were written by Rudd. The Mongolian Buryat Band is comprised of a throat singer, a vocalist, and four instrumentalists who play everything from horse-head basses and fiddles to lute, dulcimer, and limbe (a flute). Rudd plays his trombone as well as mellophone and even does some scat singing. The traditional songs, such as "Behind the Mountains" and "Bridle Ringing," are beautiful, full of rich tonal sonorities and gorgeous melodies. But the most astonishing elements are Rudd's own compositions for this group, perhaps the most moving of which is "Gathering Light," where his trombone is a background tonal drone and Badma Khanda sings wordlessly as the flute and the dulcimer float around her elegantly. When Rudd takes his solo, the blues come winding their way in courtesy of New Orleans. Another fine moment (of many here) is Oumou Sangare's ethereal "Djoloren." Khanda sings solo for nearly a minute and half before dropping out as the band begins to enter. First the bass and dulcimer slip in, then the fiddle winds in, then Rudd comes in, hovering about, playing a subtle and simple folk melody that is repetitive and hypnotic. Finally, Khanda returns to sing with the entire band, and the effect is breathtaking. "Four Mountains" begins as a duet between Battuvshin Baldantseren, who does throat singing, and Rudd, creating overtones of extremely high and low pitches -- the instruments, voice, and trombone share a low note called a "fundamental" bass note and have similar starting points on the bass scale. They then perform almost in counterpoint before the mellophone engages the trombone and the throat singing reenters to finish. Rudd improvises jazz before moving back to tonal exchanges, and it's sonically out of this world. There's even straight-up countrified blues on "Buryat Boogie," where fiddle, dulcimer, vocals (which display Rudd to be a fine blues and scat singer), and trombone dig deep into old-time American roots territory for a real cultural exchange. There isn't another recording like this on the planet; it's stunning.

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