Drummer Rudy Royston presents an album of solo drum music in support of the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Featuring 23 tracks of tone poems, tributes to some jazz greats, church illustrations, and tunes Rudy likes to play.

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Release date: June 19

Rudy Royston, first-call drummer for Bill Frisell, Dave Douglas, Rudresh Mahanthappa and many more, releases his fourth album as a leader, PaNOptic. Each of his previous releases – 303 (2014), Rise of Orion (2016), and Flatbed Buggy (2019) – found Royston honing his voice as a composer and leader of ensembles of various sizes. On this album, Rudy focuses on the full sonic possibilities of the drum set.

Recorded in 2013, Rudy decided that now was the time to get this music out into the world. Rudy and Greenleaf Music are donating the income from this album to the MusicCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. As Rudy says, “It is my sincerest pleasure to donate 100% of the proceeds of this CD to charity. I myself have received financial assistance from MusiCares and other organizations alike. In a time when many of my fellow musicians and others in the entertainment business are in financial hardship from loss of work, faced with uncertainty about the future of work, I am honored to offer any help I can.”

When the pandemic hit, Rudy received support from a number of charities and wanted to give back. “I had recorded PaNOptic a few years ago and was just waiting for the right time to release it. A few days later, with most bills paid and a little breathing room, I was thinking how I could help any fellow musicians who are also in need and perhaps more immediate need than I. I wanted to give others the assurance they were not alone in this pandemic. I remembered PaNOptic and knew this was something I could offer to help. I emailed Dave at Geenleaf Music the idea of using this solo CD as a fundraiser for charity and he felt the same as I did about helping others as much as we can.”

Initially, he wasn’t sure what kind of project would have the most impact. “At first I thought to try and find a few select musicians who were in financial hardship and donate the money directly to them. Then I realized we are all in hardship right now, so Dave and I thought to cast the widest net possible would be best. I asked around to some friends and MusiCares came up a few times. I chose to go with MusiCares on my friends’ advice though still a little skeptical, until a week later when a check from MusiCares arrived in my mailbox. It was confirmation MusiCares is doing what their name says. To know this somewhat larger organization was present with one little jazz drummer in a New Jersey suburb was all I needed to be assured of MusiCares’ sincerity. I have been helped all along the way from the generosity and care of others, I just want to repay to others the care and love and concern that has been given to me.”

The album is being released exclusively on Greenleaf Music’s Bandcamp label page in digital format, with all the proceeds going directly to MusicCares.

“For me, the music on this CD represents freedom from boundaries, hope, beauty, love, joy, light, adventure, inspirations. I hope to offer the same to all who listen. Love you all sincerely.”

1. BlaCk–Bad CoMPAny—BiRd (3:34)
2. bLUes (3:09)
3. ciTy buS StOp (0:59)
4. defeRRed (4:41)
5. desirE (3:05)
6. foolish (3:00)
7. intO ElVin (3:17)
8. BilL (1:45)
9. Jack, fIgHt oR FligHT (3:30)
10. maXX (1:33)
11. oWhNet (0:33)
12. s’TRopHy (4:18)
13. come (1:15)
14. I’m Coming Home (4:45)
15. MOTHER KELLY and the preacher part 1 (0:56)
16. mother kelly and THE PREACHER part 2 – sermon (4:02)
17. mr zoot suite–bruh Arnold 3:23)
18. oNe SnaP fIngER (2:48)
19. PaNOptic (3:29)
20. pANt 1 (1:54)
21. pANt 2 (2:33)
22. pop LOVE song (prinS-esh) (2:55)
23. We Real Cool (1:34)

Rudy Royston, drums, cymbals, voice

Executive Producer: Dave Douglas
Producer: Rudy Royston
Recorded on December 18, 2013 at Tedesco Studios in Paramus, NJ
Recording and Mixing Engineer: Tom Tedesco
Mastered by Kevin Blackler at Blackler Mastering
Photography and design by Rudy Royston

All compositions by Rudy Royston (Rudy Royston Publishing / ASCAP)

When I recorded these tracks I was driven by a desire to produce music played only on drums and cymbals, no overdubs, no electronics, no samples. It would be solo drum music that I hoped could feel like completed songs within themselves, full of melody, harmony, groove, emotion, style, color, texture. I wanted solo drum pieces that could be experienced in succession as a whole the same way a non drum solo recording could.  What came of the almost three hour session was an impromptu medley of the songs and scenes and poems, inspirations, meditations and tributes that flowed through my conscience at that moment. It is purely how I was feeling on that day, at that time.  It was an incredible feeling and so freeing. It was as if I was stepping into a dark room to sit at my drums and there were vacillating melodies echoing quietly in the background. And as I began to play along with any one tune, explore any one texture and color, another tune or moment would call my attention: I went wherever I felt the call.

The name PANOPLY comes from these perpetual moments of music, like light beams, shining through the melodic darkness of my conscience. This CD is a somewhat comprehensive exploration of music, moments, words and pictures that inspire me, each light shining forth through the darkness one ray at a time.

Tracks 1-6 are just inspirations and meditations of moments and music and poems I like. BlaCk–Bad CoMPAny–BiRd I love the contour of the melody of the Beatles’ Blackbird, when Bad Company shined through for a moment, I went. bLUes is a solo over a twelve bar blues form with a refrain inspired by a live performance of Elvin Jones’s, “Shinjitu”. ciTy buS StOp is an illustration of a city bus ride…for a few stops. defeRRed is inspired by a Langston Hughes poem entitled, Dream DeferreddesirE explores the onset of longing and the propelling passion to fulfill that desire. foolish is inspired by the Victor Young, jazz standard My Foolish Heart: the song references the sometimes quiet resignation that you have fallen in love despite your best efforts to resist.

Tracks 7-12 are tribute pieces. These are pieces that evoke some of the indelible sonic references that come to mind when I think of these great musicians. At other times, music landscapes or emotions that these musicians evoke come to mind. As always, I am not attempting to mimic these musicians, I am only taking the invaluable gifts their music and playing has given me and exploring the joy of emotions and adventure that came with them. Elvin Jones is one of the first jazz musicians I ever witness on film—you know the black and white footage of Elvin playing with Coltrane and there are streams of steam rising from the crowns of the bands’ heads. As a teenager, seeing and hearing the strength of Elvin’s drumming and the emotion and spirit with which he played is what sealed my passion to be a jazz musician.  intO ElVin is a constant piece of me; BilL. Having the opportunity to play with Bill Frisell has taught me that the journey is just as important as the destination; but upon every destination is only the beginning of another journey.  Jack, fIgHt oR FligHT is a tribute to the smooth-flying, propulsion I feel in DeJohnette’s music; maXX, a tribute to the musicality and phrasing I feel in Max’s drumming; oWhNet, the energy and power and soulfulness of Ornette; s’TRopHy brings to my affections everything joyful, skillful and profound about jazz, embodied in Thelonious Monk.

Tracks 13-17 are sacred music. Growing up in the Pentecostal church is the most essential part of who I am as a person and a musician.  coMe reflects a personal benediction. I’m Coming Home was a song we would sing when a “prodigal” member (backslider) came back into fellowship in the church; MOTHER KELLY and the preacher part 1 is the melody the First Lady (Pastor’s Wife) of the Mount Sinai Deliverance Tabernacle Church of God In Christ would sing while she would pray—she would pray words, then sing this melody, then back to words; mother kelly and THE PREACHER part 2 – sermon is an illustration of a typical sermon with the pastor ardently preaching a few words and the church would respond in a collective refrain of affirmation—think of the call and response of Moaninmr zoot suite–bruh Arnold is honoring my ex-brother-in-law, who was a great example to me of soulfulness  and the power of music growing up. He later became a deacon in the church.  Always a spiffy dresser, Arnold’s style and mannerisms—back then a little raw by church standards—always brought a liveliness and soulful groove to the day. Bruh Arnold died during the preparation of this album, in April 2020 from COVID19.

Tracks 18-23…more inspirations and meditations of moments and music and poems I like. oNe SnaP fIngER inspired by Herbie Hancock’s phrasing and harmonic adventures; PaNOptic a somewhat comprehensive, stream-of-conscience exploration; pANt 1 and pANt 2 are meditations on mood, motion, the color black and light; pop LOVE soNg (prinS-esh) is inspired by a the melody of Prince’s The Most Beautiful Girl In the World; We Real Cool is accompaniment to the Gwendolyn Brooks poem of the same name. The “music” of the poems of Brooks and Hughes were the main influence of me studying poetry in college.

I pray that this music is something that brings you inspiration, enjoyment and comfort. Change is upon us. I love you all.