by Ferell Aubre
Rudy Royston was born in the big state of Texas, Ft. Worth in fact, but was raised in the progressive loins of Denver, Colorado. His mother avidly supported the arts and his father worked as the supervisor of shipping at a children’s percussion instrument company. Which was an auspicious converging of events as his father would often bring home slightly damaged percussion instruments, resulting in a childhood surrounded by bongos, rhythm sticks, xylophones, recorders, metallophones, glockenspiels, and drums. Throughout his formative years his mother avidly supported his affinity towards the drums. Fast forward Royston graduated with honors from University of Denver, where he received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music and Poetry. He later received K-12 teaching credentials from Metropolitan State College of Denver. Married to pianist Shamie Royston who together they share two children, the two dreamed about moving to a jazz hub like New York to pursue careers as performing musicians. 22 years into their marriage the dream is a reality as both are a vibrant part of the New York jazz scene. Royston’s latest offering Flatbed Buggy on Greenleaf Music is a triumph to the work and commitment Royston regular puts forth. Royston is joined by John Ellis: bass clarinet, saxes; Gary Versace: accordion; Hank Roberts: cello; and Joe Martin on bass.
The title track “Flatbed Buggy” begins with Royston and Ellis in a musical conversation that establishes the groove. Ellis and Versace and Roberts present the melody with a passionate display. The composition offers nice musical touches like bands hits and space, which add to the melody and its effectiveness. The orchestration for the three front instruments is colorful. There are moments of blues, classical and of course, jazz. Roberts solos first, with his accordion laying down jazz articulations as if it has always been a part of the mainstream jazz sound. Ellis’ bass clarinet solo is an extension of Versace’s accordion sound in both color and vocabulary. Royston lays down an immensely relaxed groove that never loses the clarity of pulse, yes is still complex and full-bodied.
“Bobblehead” has the band stretching their straight-ahead jazz chops. Set to an interesting form that goes between swing and ethereal. The solo form gives space for Roberts, Versace and Ellis to interact and take turn soloing. Band hits provide the transition of Ellis soprano saxophone and the band effortlessly flows between styles and interacts with joy. Royston’s solo is energetic, motif driven and makes a statement. This is certainly creative jazz in every sense, it has tradition, with a palpable balance of modernism.
Flatbed Buggy is a worthy addition to Royston’s discography. Pastoral, communicative, swinging, creative, the list goes on. One resounding theme is a group of musicians who are playing their hearts out in a collective conversation about a well-loved subject, jazz.