28 January 2008

Rudder: Steady as she jams

My friend Happy over at PlasticSlacks once espoused a theory that hippies may be jazz's last hope. He could be right and one fine day a chronically underfunded (not to mention bitter) cultural studies professor at an obscure college in the nation's midsection may use the band Rudder as evidence to support this line of argument.

I put Rudder's debut release (the aptly named Rudder on upstart 19/8 Records) on my 2007 favorites list for the simple reason that I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it the way you enjoy something deep-fried at the fair, with a wet-nap afterward and maybe some AlkaSeltzer and definitely a promise to start eating more veggies come Monday.

And since my list was free of modifiers, I sidestepped the buzz-kill question, "Yeah, but is it jazz?" My answer to the question is usually "Who effing cares?" But since I've brought it up, what about it?

All four member of Rudder have jazz bona fides they could trot out, particularly saxophonist Chris Cheek, and the Gracenote database classifies the CD as jazz when iTunes loads it. But I can easily imagine a group of blue-haired jazz brunchers reaching for the nitroglycerin at the opening strains of almost any train. There is also enough bass groove here make Bootsy Collins smile (and lead out-jazzers to pull their berets down over their ears).

The band's MySpace page lists their genre as "Electro / Nu-Jazz / Jam Band" and "metalic hokey-pokey" all of which seems apt. It also proves that the digital age is leading us beyond genre and out into an uncertain world for die-hard catagoricals. So be it.

Meanwhile, Rudder's album is climbing the jam band charts, something I didn't even know existed. They've also launched a campaign to get themselves included on the next Dave Matthews Band tour. It remains to be seen whether these talented sidemen will remain together as a group or return to their Ronin ways. In the meantime, we can still lick our fingers over Rudder. Far out.

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