Downbeat featured review for Rudy Royston

The Hot Box review brings accolades for Flatbed Buggy from four critics.

With a feature review in the December issue of Downbeat Magazine, reviewer Jim Macnie has some very kind words for the upcoming Rudy Royston album:

“Fierce drummers who lift the bandstand with a blend of poise and push are some of jazz’s most exciting improvisers. For the past several years, Rudy Royston has been one of these percussionists, an esteemed traps maestro whose sense of swing is marked by a catholic slant; he has a million ways to accent the action, and his playing – as repped by work with saxophonist JD Allen and guitarist Bill Frisell, among others – arrives with a joyous oomph that supercharges the music at hand. But his compositional interests are broad, and when leading his own ensembles, the stormy attack of a hard-hit snare and splashy ride cymbal isn’t the only story he has to tell.

Flatbed Buggy illustrates just how expansive Royston’s scope is these days. By stressing variety and dodging routine jazz tacks, the middle-aged whirlwind signals that he’s a risk-taker who’s ready to follow his muse down uncommon roads. This is his third album as a leader, as well as the third distinct ensemble he’s represented. When you design a front line of bass clarinet (John Ellis) and cello (Hank Robers), you’re banking on relatively unique blends to carry the day. In Royston’s case, this setup is utterly refreshing.

Though the drummer grew up in Denver, he enjoyed visits with his father back to his native Texas. This new music harks to the childhood days he’d spend amid the pleasures of rural escapades. Mildly sentimental, often cinematic, the program boasts a willful sense of grace that sustains itself, even when the momentum truly starts to percolate. After a series of serene reflections, “The Roadside Flowers” arrives all hopped up on pulse, but still possesses an inner calm that adds dimension to its emotional scope.

Royston has said that addressing parts of the classical repertoire in school goosed his imagination when it comes to crafting unusual hues in his own work. A handful of pieces bookend this thought. “boy…MAN” stresses melodic morphing over trad improvisation (the title references time passing), and its dark mix of strings and reeds offers an orchestral flair. Likewise, the eerie drama that wafts through the start of “girl…WOMAN” is one of the album’s most fetching moods. The band’s cozy approach to interplay is spot-on, harking to pastoral beauty with the kind of poetry Frisell brought to Big Sur (OKeh). For Royston, Flatbed Buggy is a trip to the country that opens up several vistas.”

Three other critics weighed in on the album in the magazine’s Hot Box feature:

“Who can resist the reedy mix of accordion and bass clarinet? Not me, especially when there’s a cello on hand to make like a walking bass or a singing violin. Wonderful chamber jazz writing, with moods ranging from bebop to Americana.” – Paul de Barros

“Royston has an unusual instrumental palette for this jazz-come-Americana-album-wistful accordion, temperate cello, smoldering sax. His unflagging attention to the beat defies most of the moodiness. But his playing directs each tune toward the satisfying endgame: a soft landing on the ear.” – Suzanne Lorge

“The leader wields as much power from his dynamic and often delicate drumming as he does from his enticing compositions, which elicit a sepia-toned, cinematic allure.” – John Murph

Look for the magazine to be available very soon. You can pre-order the album on Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon and listen to three tracks now on Apple Music and Spotify ahead of the album’s release on October 26.