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Rudy Royston’s Flatbed Buggy - DAY (Greenleaf)

4 May 2023

The last time drummer/composer Rudy Royston convened his band Flatbed Buggy, it was to record the eponymous album that paid tribute to Royston’s youth in rural Texas. For DAY, he gets more specific, traversing twenty-four hours of quarantined pandemic time. That makes it sound like a downer – a pandemic is no bueno to someone used to visiting the great outdoors whenever the mood strikes. But Royston, along with his cohorts John Ellis (bass clarinet), Gary Versace (accordion), Hank Roberts (cello), and Joe Martin (*bass), doesn’t see it that way. Sure, there are tinges of melancholy in “Missing You” (an acknowledgement of the loss of Royston’s brother Ritchie and his mentor, cornetist Ron Miles). But Royston is just as likely to indulge in fond memories (“Limeni Village,” “The Mokes”), get the party started (“Five-Thirty Strut,” “Keep It Moving”), or simply contemplate the beauty of living “(Look To the Hills,” “Thank You For This Day”). Far from being any kind of limitation, the quintet’s unusual instrumentation lets Royston take the group wherever he wants, from chamber jazz to bebop to funk, all of it given a distinctive, almost folky atmosphere. The group’s versatility and Royston’s vision make DAY an example of artistic expression that’s both personal and universal.