Rudy Royston has been an inspiration to me since my first year at Lamont School of Music. His musicianship and human tone created in us students, a drive to become something greater than the musical prodigies we had all set out to be. He made you think about yourself as less of a competitive machine, vomiting chords, scales and rhythm and opt for more of a spiritual conduit of what was already inside your soul.
In the 90’s and early 2000’s Rudy graced the Denver music scene like a holy ghost who’s presence brought us joy no matter which stage he stepped foot on. A short absence from the club scene brought fears and rumors that he had limited his performance to church confines which, as most rumors are, was untrue. Life took hold of him, making him busy but making it painfully obvious to those of us on the outskirts that a great force was missing. Like water to chocolate, we reached for whatever meaning we could pull from his absence until his return to the stage. It is no surprise then, that after moving to New Jersey to achieve his master’s degree at Rutgers, he was soon performing with some of the most prestigious musicians in the jazz community and beyond. For surely, we could not be the only ones to recognize such talent.
Barring his famous affiliations, his personal growth as a human and a bandleader are Siddhartha-esque and the spiritual flow of his latest album, Rise of Orion, is an impressive collection of songs bringing new zeal to the art of the trio.
Jon Irabagon (sax) and Yasushi Nakamura (bass) pair seamlessly with Rudy’s performance as a band leader on this, what Rudy calls his “‘supposed’ drummer album.” The album composed almost completely of Rudy’s original compositions contains references to only two covers, Bill Withers’ “Make a Smile for Me” and Henry Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament,” both of which emit slight evidence to the influence of Ron Miles’ clean compositional format. Interspersed throughout the album are short musical notions that ring sweetly like a tap on a chalice bowl or a single drop of rain falling gently onto a glass-like fjord… miniature prayers.
As for the rest of the music, to give away too much about this album would be like spoiling the end of a novel to an eager reader. These words cannot complete the story. Those hungry for music must, therefore, hear for themselves how this piece of art navigates the senses.