Charles Rumback – Cadillac Turns
“The tiniest seed in the right situation turns into the most beautiful forest…the most promising seed in the wrong situation turns into nothing. Things come from nothing very much and start from unpromising beginnings.” – Brian Eno
SYDNEY, Australia, 2010
“Are you Charles Rumback?” A chance encounter, if such a thing exists, found the drummer/composer, jet-lagged on a barstool, post-soundcheck, on a Friday in a tiny Sydney club. Calling out of context, like an incredulous kid recognizing their grade school teacher in line at the grocery store, was renowned New Orleans bassist James Singleton, having recognized Rumback from a gig just 5 days prior at the Skylark way back in Chicago. Little did Singleton know however, earlier that same Skylark Monday, Rumback overheard him reading the riot act to a young studio intern for walking in and disrupting his live recording session mid-song at Strobe Studios.
A ruined take or a promising beginning? It was too early to tell whether it was harmonic convergence or mere coincidence, but a random recognition a world away from one of New Orleans’ top flight musicians was notable to Rumback. After all, this was the same guy who, besides backing everyone from Professor Longhair to Chet Baker, a teenage Charles had seen perform in Kansas City with his long-running group Astral Project nearly 20 years ago.
At the behest of two close musician friends, Chicago guitarist Steve Marquette and New Orleans trombonist Jeff Albert, a seed was planted to pair Singleton in a “first meeting” with Rumback’s working trio with saxophone titan Greg Ward and intrepid piano player Jim Baker at the 2017 edition of the Instigation Festival – a sort of Chicago/NOLA free (jazz?) trade agreement founded my Marquette celebrating the century-plus cross-pollination of the two storied jazz cities.
Rumback initially hoped to write and record brand new tunes for the date, but his other working trio – the one consisting of his 2-year-old son and newborn twin daughters – was taking up too much time to get any new ideas on paper. So what transpires on Cadillac Turns are off-the-cuff, live versions of some of Rumback’s finest compositions rendered anew by the Crescent City bounce that SIngleton is known far and wide for. The inherent X factor that James brings to the date is only heightened by the fact that he was reading Rumback’s charts for the first time on the bandstand, bringing new blooms to seeds planted so long ago.
Often times, an emerging artist seems in a hurry to get somewhere, with no destination, looking for a vehicle that can start and stop on a dime and give nine cents change. Now arguably a mid-career artist, Rumback knows which direction he is headed, slows his roll (but doesn’t let up) just enough to recognize the beauty of the trip itself. And, with Baker, Ward, and Singleton in tow, he makes it seems easy, like the wide swing of a Cadillac pulling a u-ey in the middle of Western Ave., Chicago’s longest road.
Nick Macri – Chicago, 2019