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Recent Listening: Royston and Svensson


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Rudy Royston, 303, (Greenleaf Music)

Since his emergence from Denver (area code 303) nearly a decade ago, Royston’s drumming has graced bands led by Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, JD Allen, Tom Harrell and other leaders in 21st century jazz. With 303, Royston becomes a leader himself. As he has since he first attracted attention playing for Denver trumpeter Ron Miles, Royston is notable not only for the dynamics of his technique but for empathy with his fellow musicians and the reactive support he gives them. His drums are prominent in the mix, but for all of his technical adroitness, he does not put himself on display, even in the rockish insistencies of “Goodnight Kinyah” or the vaguely Latin ones that develop into an intense drum solo with horn accompaniment in “Gangs of New York.”

Royston is equally at home with coverng Radiohead’s “High and Dry” and adapting Mozart’s “Ave Venum Corpus” as an anthem in which his brush work floats under Jon Irabagon’s alto saxophone. Royston gives Irabagon, trumpeter Nadja Noordhuis, pianist Sam Harris and guitarist solo opportunities that they use impressively. He uses two basses, played by Mimi Jones and Yasushi Nakamura, not for novelty but to provide texture and harmonic coherence.

Hannah Svensson, Each Little Moment (Volenza)

In a 2012 collection of duets with her guitarist father Ewan, Ms. Svensson exhibited charm, clear intonation and a confident approach to lyrics. Her new album finds the young Swedish singer again with her dad, plus the masterly pianist Jan Lundgren, bassist Morten Ramsbøl and drummer Kristian Leth. She is affecting in four pieces associated with Billie Holiday, notably so in “It’s Easy to Remember,” whose rarely heard verse she includes. She gives a personal blues spin to a slow “Fine and Mellow,” which has effective solos from Svensson, Sr., and Lundgren. She and Lundgren give glowing performances in “My Foolish Heart.” Few singers her age would be attracted to Louis Jordan’s 1944 hit “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” Ms. Svensson takes it on with verve and makes amusing, bluesy, use of her tendency to slide up into notes. Other highlights of the track: Ramsbøl’s powerful bass work and the harmonic riches of Lundgren’s solo. For a Rifftides review of her previous CD, go here.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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