Mike Rud: Live From Lotus Land – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

Chances are Mike Rud is a name you haven’t heard before. Unless of course you have read his interview on this site or happen to have lived in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa or Montreal within the last ten years or so. Truth is, Mike Rud is an extremely talented Jazz Guitarist of the first order and definitely a talent deserving wider recognition.

Well known on the local and national Jazz Guitar scene as a player and educator, Rud has embraced the tradition of mentor and showman that has distinguished many of the giants involved in the Jazz Guitar community from years gone by. This stylistic approach has served him well as is evident on his latest CD Mike Rud Live From Lotus Land, with Rud digging deep into the rich vein of Hard-Bop and Blues, recalling the approaches of Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis and Jim Hall while still maintaining a voice that is Mike Rud.

The CD kicks off with the swinging and delightful original “Laurier Luxury Walk”. This tune features some nice interplay in the form of a call and response between Rud and the rhythm section, ala Oscar Peterson’s early Trio work with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown. Mike takes the first solo revealing a fine display of melody and taste. Pianist Tilden Webb, a spirited player, is up next as he plays a fine solo leading into an unaccompanied chord solo passage from Mike as he shifts and slides into a different tonality to finish off the tune. A great song that should have your foot tapping in no time.

The next tune, a nicely laid back “Blues For Junior” showcases Rud’s love for the Blues as he and Bassist Russ Botten, playing duo, exhibit a keen sense of maturity and restraint that is usually found in more seasoned players. Both Rud and Botten exhibit a deep appreciation for both the Blues and Jazz as they pull off some nice lines paying full respect to both idioms. Legendary Bassist Ray Brown, the original composer, would be proud indeed.

And speaking of the Blues, Rud et al have fun turning out Wray Downes’ tune “R. B.’s Line”, a Bop based Blues that allows each player to show off their stuff over a swingin’ mid-tempo groove. Bassist Jodi Proznick gets to shine on this tune with two choruses of great bass playing as does Drummer Jesse Cahill. Rud and Webb provide exemplary playing per usual. In fact, such exemplary playing finds its way throughout the whole CD by all concerned, reminding me yet again why New York and LA don’t have a monopoly on great Jazz talent…no matter what they say…:)

The six remaining tunes feature great playing and wonderful compositions from Rud alongside two standards of American popular song. And while I enjoyed all the tunes on the CD, there a few that I would like to point out: the Latin groove of “Persona Non Grata”, the peppy rhythm changes of “Hap Hap Happy” and the Hard Bop stylings of “Punctilios”. These Rud penned compositions had me hitting the back button on my remote so many times I thought I was going to leave a permanent thumb print on the dang thing. They are lively and upbeat with some major playing from Rud, Webb and guest Tenor Sax player Mike Allen. Of special note is the tune “Punctilios” with Webb getting in some hot McCoy Tyner type runs followed by Allen’s piquant blowing, and the tune “Persona Non Grata” where Rud flies across the fret board ala Pat Martino. Some serious playing, with Tenor man Allen giving him a run for his money!

Not to be left out, there’s also a sensitive side to Rud and the boys as displayed on the beautifully penned “Sueangel (‘Sue Angel’)”, with supportive solos and accompaniment from all, and the often played, but always beautiful, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. Rud and Botten play duo again on this tune with both players giving sensitive performances. Rud displays some serious chops at the end of the tune reminiscent of Lenny Breau’s chordal work complete with some nice false harmonics to end the tune.

The last tune on the CD is a gorgeously played “I’ll Be Seeing You” featuring Rud and Webb in an intimate duo setting. Rud plays wonderfully against Webb’s comping, treating the listener to some warm playing and fleet fingered lines. A great way to end off the session.

Mike Rud Live From Lotus Land is a great way to spend an hour or so getting to know a very talented player, composer and arranger. Alongside a solid group of players, Mike Rud reminds the listener why this music will stand the test of time…because it is good! Pure and simple.

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