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Album review: 'Flatbed Buggy'


Rudy Royston

'Flatbed Buggy'

Greenleaf Music

In his Sixth Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven evokes everything from folk dances to thunderstorms to capture the beauty of the countryside. On the wonderful new album "Flatbed Buggy," Rudy Royston takes a similar journey, employing a variety of musical styles to paint a vivid, aural picture of his pastoral childhood, visiting his father in Texas. Royston is a first-call jazz drummer, enhancing the music of Bill Frisell, Branford Marsalis, Dave Douglas and numerous others, but "Flatbed Buggy" transcends jazz.

Start with the distinctive instrumentation: Gary Versace on accordion; John Ellis, bass clarinet and saxophones; Hank Roberts, cello; and Joe Martin on bass. The unusual combination of timbres somehow conjures up the feel of country life throughout the album. Versace - an Eastman School of Music professor - is especially strong, moving effortlessly from elegiac to lilting in his solos. Royston not only plays subtly; he showcases his formidable skills as a composer with beautiful tunes like "Soul Train," "boy...MAN," and "I Guess It's Time to Go."