|Mike Rud. Photo credit: Darren Heroux|
Guitarist/songwriter Mike Rud won the Canadian Juno Award for best vocal jazz album in 2014 for his last CD, “Notes on Montreal”. It was a love letter to the city, for which he wrote the tunes and lyrics, and marshalled a 9-piece ensemble with the wonderful vocals of Sienna Dahlen. His new album “Miniatures” is a very different. On “Miniatures,” Mike plays and sings jazz standards and originals, and even some Bach. The album notes contains a telling quote from Jim Hall, which captures the direction which Mike has taken in the new album:
“I sometimes have a fantasy that, if the tree of jazz were pruned down far enough, we’d be left just with Freddie Green strumming away and making you feel like playing and smiling.”
This prompted Sebastian to ask Mike Rud about his own personal connection with Jim Hall, to which this was Mile’s response:
Jim I met in 1994 at the Banff international summer jazz workshop. I didn’t know he’d be the teacher when I signed up. “TBA” the roster said. When the news came it would be him, I was overjoyed of course. He was an inspiring and supportive teacher, with a down-to-earth tone and approach. We all loved him.
A year later, with a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, I went to New York for further studies. Lucky me, he was doing a 6-nighter (!) at the Village Vanguard, with a different guest each night, right at the start of my time there. I had already had a large dose of one of Jim’s primary ideas, that of developing a small motif across an improvised solo, and between that and reflecting on the nights I heard him playing, I had pages of questions, which I recall him answering patiently.
Across the months, we covered those motivic ideas, his fabulous 4-to-the-bar chord comping, (which I draw on all the time, particularly on this new record since it has no rhythm section), arranging (Jim said that he’d like to hear me write for strings, which was probably in my mind as I took that up in subsequent years, culminating in writing string quartet parts for Notes on Montreal), a bit about guitar technique, and he helped me think critically and creatively toward my first CD, Whyte Avenue, which I recorded at the end of my time there, in April, 1996 with John Stetch, Bill McHenry, Joe Martin and Jorge Rossy.
He wasn’t always or only positive. He really gave it to me over the ‘intent’ and focus I put into a melody. And I’ve heard similar stories from others who knew him. That was a BIG deal for him, because he was right! He also heard one particular chord voicing I was using at one point in an arrangement and said “you’re kidding right?” or something to that effect. Then he made another suggestion, which I simply put holus-bolus into the arrangement. When JH gives you chords, and they sound that great, you don’t argue.
But he was, overall, the most encouraging teacher I think I’ve ever had. Particularly, he walked a fine line well, namely that of putting across musical values (melody, sound, line, motif, dynamics, creativity) without insisting on *his* solutions to these problems. Meeting him was absolutely a blessing.