Rudy Royston is one of the premier drummers of his generation helming the kit for such notable jazz figures as Bill Frisell, JD Allen, and Dave Douglas, but Royston also shines as a bandleader as evidenced by his latest opus, Flatbed Buggy, his third album on the Greenleaf label, to be released October 26th. The album, in true maverick fashion, features quite a unique orchestration with its almost chamber-like quintet comprised of Gary Versace on accordion, John Ellis on bass clarinet and saxophones, Hank Roberts on cello and Joe Martin on bass.
“I was going for something that was more about melodies,” Royston declares. “I wanted to illustrate a story.” And this feat, we must admit, has been brilliantly achieved on the album. Royston continues: “I wanted us all to be constantly playing. I wanted us all to orchestrate or color or have a little input regardless of who is soloing. So if you check out the little stuff Hank is doing on Gary’s solos, for instance — all these neat little themes are happening. It sounds very orchestra-like for me. Some of it is written but 90 percent is those guys just interjecting their own taste into what’s going at the time.”
The album, with its sublime melodies, its complex musical exchanges and its beautiful sensitivity is an ode to Royston childhood. “Flatbed buggies to me mean country, they mean home, they mean earth. We lived in Denver but my father lived in Texas, and I would spend time in the country there. I remember riding on this kind of flatbed buggy thing when I was a child. The whole feeling that brought me … it was comforting, it was outside, this bitter shrubbery smell, my friends are there, my family’s there. So it’s about that, but the album also has to do with time: a time in my life, the beginning of things, the process of them. The buggy moving along up a road represents the movement of time. And the titles on the album really have to do with time and motion.”
Flatbed Buggy is a true masterpiece sure to elate the most discerning of jazz aficionados with its unorthodox and novel ideas and its unparalleled level of musicianship. Royston succeeds in bringing flair to a century old artform without diluting its essence making it both familiar and foreign at the same time. A pure delight.
Stream “Soul Trane”, the latest single off Rudy Royston’s Flatbed Buggy, below. You can pre-order the album via Bandcamp.
Flatbed Buggy, the new album by drummer Rudy Royston is coming to Greenleaf Music October 26.