Arts & Culture Music

I Never Left, and Now I’m Back – The Music of Roswell Rudd. Murmrr Theatre, Nov 17th, 2018

“I Never Left, and Now I’m Back”

The Music Of Roswell Rudd 1935 – 2017

Nov. 17th, 2018 – 8pm

Murmrr Theatre

17 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238

“Roswell composed at the piano working out his musical ideas. The compositions in this evening’s musical tribute span 1971 – 2012 and include several pieces written and recorded with musicians in Mali and Mongolia.

I used to call Roswell, “Big Ears” because he could land anywhere in the world with his trombone and find his way into the music.

The Trombone Tribe lives on and will perform some great horn pieces by Roswell.  He wrote several songs which have already had multiple recordings –“Bamako” which he wrote and recorded with Toumani Diabaté from the GRAMMY-nominated MALIcool has also been recorded by Roswell and Archie Shepp, with Steve LacyMichael Doucet & Beau Soleil and with Yomo Toro.

In 2002 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in composition. I hope other musicians now find their sounds within his compositions. A rich resource for adventurous musicians on all instruments.”

– Verna Gillis, Rudd’s widow, concert & album producer, founder of Soundspace


Roswell Rudd was so good at illuminating for us the inner workings of Jazz’s masterworks—by Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, Duke Ellington, Strayhorn, et al.—and so convincing as an open-field improviser working without a script that we probably have overlooked the creativity and craftsmanship of his own compositions. We know of about 250; the handful presented tonight are among the highlights of his 55-year development as a writer. “Get up each day and write some melody” was what Roswell preached and lived. Most of these works he mapped out at the piano; some of them went into service right away, and others, like “Pouchie and the Bird,” had several reiterations before going public.

A surprising number of Roswell’s pieces are songs with words—his good philosophical advice but also vignettes, personifications, and dedications to the personalities and incidents of his life. A few of the earliest Rudd compositions were brewed like a strong tea out of the constant contemplation of others’ works—like “Mood Indigo” transforming into “Short” in 1963–64. “Rosmosis,” here heard in a rare complete treatment, belongs to that first batch from his twenties. “Keep Your Heart Right”, which many will remember from Archie Shepp’sLive in San Francisco (1966), was the enduring anthem of his early career, as “Bamako” would be for 21st century triumphs. Those recent gems are well represented by much of tonight’s program.

Thanks to the vision of Verna Gillis, we have a strong documentation on latter-day records of Roswell playing his own works, and thanks to her vision for his legacy there will be ever greater access to them.  The Roswell Rudd digital archive at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is open at It is the definitive, permanent, and growing portal for Roswell’s compositions and presentation of his life and career.  These pieces will testify alongside his recordings to Roswell Rudd’s creative self and be interpreted by rising generations that didn’t get to bask in person in his charm.

– Ben Young, Roswell Rudd Scholar, Producer of NY Art Quartet Box Set

Steven Bernstein,
Musical Director

Set One:

“Trombone Tribe Bone Again” (2008)
“Slide and the Family Bone” (1994)
Ray Anderson

Art Baron

Steve Swell

Josh Roseman

Greg Glassman

Deborah Weisz

Brian Drye

Steven Bernstein

Bob Stewart

Tony Scherr

Michael Sarin

“I Look in the Mirror” (2008)
Sam Baum

Murray Wall

“Blue Mongol” (2004)
Steve Gorn

“Funky Little Sweet Thing” (2012)
Heather Masse with Ivan Rubenstein-Gillis

Steven Bernstein

Tony Scherr

Michael Sarin


Briggan Krauss

“Rosmosis” (1964)

“Keep Your Heart Right” (1965)
“Suh Blah Blah Buh Sibi” (1973)

Breathahoward” (1971)

Sexmob with:
Ray Anderson

Art Baron

Steve Swell

Josh Roseman

Greg Glassman

Deborah Weisz

Brian Drye

Bob Stewart

Marcus Rojas

Set Two:

“Sand In My Slide Shuffle” (2003)

Jacob Garchik’s The Heavens

“Loved by Love” (2007)

Reggie Bennett
Jacob Garchik

Jason Jackson

Josh Roseman

Curtis Hasselbring

Tim Vaughn

Max Seigel

Brian Drye
Dan Peck

“Ode to a Green Frisbee” (1977)

“Pazuzu” (1986)

Jamie Saft

Trevor Dunn

Harvey Sorgen

“Whatever Turns You On” (1973)
Lafayette Harris
Ken Filiano

“Pouchie & the Bird” (1976)
“Bamako” (2000, arr. 2002)

David Owuendo

Bobby Sanabria & Ascencion


Roswell Rudd Website
NY Times Obituary

WBGO Obituary

Ottawa Citizen Obituary

NPR Fresh Air Remembrance

Roswell Rudd on Wikipedia

Roswell Rudd Sunnyside Records Bio

“Get up every day and write some melody.” –Roswell Rudd

About the author


News and art, national and local. Began as alternative weekly in 1990 in Buffalo, NY. Publishing content online since 1996.

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