The latest episode of the Burning Ambulance podcast is out now, featuring an interview with percussionist and Go! Organic Orchestra leader Adam Rudolph.
In previous episodes, we’ve talked about what people commonly understand as fusion, which drummer Lenny White, who appeared in episode two of this series, prefers to call jazz-rock. That’s the version that starts with Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and Tony Williams’ Lifetime and quickly branches out with Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever and Weather Report and on and on. But as we’ve continued the discussion, we’ve expanded the scope of inquiry to include adventurous funk and R&B fusion, which includes everything from P-Funk and Earth, Wind & Fire and the Ohio Players — and wow, do the Ohio Players deserve a place in the fusion conversation that they are very rarely granted — to Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard and especially George Duke.
Adam Rudolph is a fusion artist in about as broad a sense as you can imagine. He’s been a percussionist for close to 50 years, and should be much better known than he is. He’s been around since the early ’70s and has worked with everyone: Yusef Lateef, Fred Anderson, Don Cherry, Roscoe Mitchell, Pharoah Sanders, Sam Rivers, Wadada Leo Smith, Herbie Hancock, Maulawi, Foday Musa Suso, Hassan Hakmoun, Jon Hassell… he’s part of the Bill Laswell company of players, too, so he’s on a zillion records through that connection. Plus he leads two main groups of his own, Moving Pictures and the Go! Organic Orchestra, which have made many, many albums and even crossed over with each other a time or two.
Adam and I had a really fascinating conversation over the course of two phone calls. The impetus was Symphonic Tone Poem For Brother Yusef, a collaboration between him and reeds player Bennie Maupin that’s just been released. Bennie Maupin of course is a legend on his own — he played on Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and On The Corner, he was a member of Marion Brown’s group in the 1960s, he was in Mwandishi and the Headhunters with Herbie Hancock, he played with Woody Shaw, and his own album from 1974, The Jewel In The Lotus, is an absolutely brilliant record that blends spiritual jazz with almost New Age ambient music. There’s really no other album like it; if you’ve never heard it, it’s a must-hear. So obviously Rudolph and I talk about Maupin, whom he’s worked with off and on for decades, but we also talk about Laswell and about Lateef and about the whole idea of world music and fusion-as-creative-mindset that I’ve been discussing with every artist I’ve interviewed for the podcast this year. We talk a lot about the philosophy that goes into bringing together musicians from all sorts of traditions, from all over the globe, and finding ways to make their ideas flow together. That’s what he does with Go! Organic Orchestra, the membership of which is completely open and the music of which is created through spontaneous conduction. So he was really the ideal person to talk about all this stuff with.
I think you’ll come away from this episode with a lot to think about. I know I did. And I hope you enjoy listening to it. All the music you’ll hear, by the way, comes from Symphonic Tone Poem For Brother Yusef.