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CD Review: Roswell Rudd & Heather Masse's August Love Song 

(2016, Red House Records)

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Did you hear the one about the folksinger and the avant-jazz trombonist who walked into a bar? Okay, maybe not a bar, but how about onto the stage of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion"? That's pretty much the creation story behind August Love Song. Rudd and Masse found themselves on the program together, and discovered they lived only a few miles from each other, in the Mid-Hudson Valley. A few weekly jam sessions later and they had the makings of this gorgeous duet album that features each of them in musical roles that, if not entirely unknown to them, aren't the first things you think of when you hear the names "Roswell Rudd" and "Heather Masse."

It turns out, Masse, the folksinger and member of the award-winning trio the Wailin' Jennys is a New England Conservatory-trained jazz vocalist. And before Rudd became the lion of downtown trombone, known for his work with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, and Archie Shepp, he was a Dixieland revivalist. Here, the two dance together old school-style, with Rudd singing through his horn like Louis Armstrong, all down and dirty and guttural, and with Masse's bell-like alto punctuating the quartet arrangements with Miles Davis-like cool on a program of standards (Ellington, Gershwin, Gillespie) and originals, more than ably accompanied by Rolf Sturm on guitar and Mark Helias on contra bass.

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