Adding to His Mileage

Mike Rud has packed a lot of musical mileage into his 44 years.

The Edmonton-born jazz guitarist has three CDS to his name, not to mention an impressive list of performing and teaching stints in Vancouver, Edmonton, New York City (where he studied with guitar master Jim Hall) and Montreal, where he lives and works.

Rud has a fourth CD in the works—although he’s not sure when he’ll have the funding in place to launch it.

This one will consist of a raft of songs he’s being writing, with lyrics inspired by a wealth of literature about Montreal by the likes of Mordecai Richler, Michel Tremblay, Gabrielle Roy and many others.

“The vista keeps opening up of new stuff I could be checking out for this. Right now I’m reading some Hugh McLennan, and it’s really knocking me out,” he says.

Rud admits to having a “nearly-irrational attraction” to Montreal since he first moved there in his early 20s to study music at McGill University.

“I’ve lived all over Canada, and I’ve loved all the places I’ve lived. But this city just has something in it that’s beautiful, that I can’t get enough of.”

Part of the appeal is the city’s vibrant jazz scene.

“It’s got sort of its own history almost as an American city, because it is so connected to the scenes in New York and Boston and so forth, historically.”

That’s why it may seem that two-thirds of the Mike Rud Trio that will be performing at Jazz on the Wing next week are not from Montreal at all, but from Edmonton.

The answer is not all that complicated. Rud’s parents still live in the Alberta city, and he visits regularly.

“I probably play (Edmonton jazz club) the Yardbird Suite just about every year. In fact, I’ll be there two nights before I’m playing Jazz on the Wing. I’m playing with the same two guys.”

Those “two guys” are drummer Dan Skakunn, a frequent collaborator of Rud’s, and acoustic bass player Josh McHan, whom he has yet to meet.

Rud claims “sort of a triple connection” to Skakunn. They both studied at Edmonton’s Grant MacEwan College (now University) about the same, then later at McGill.

“When I was living in New York, he was doing his master’s degree in New York. And then we were both back in Edmonton again after that.”

They now play together at least a couple of times a year, Rud says.

“He seems to know what I’m going to play before I go to play it. He’s just a beautiful, solid, straighforward jazz drummer.”

Playing with McHan, on the other hand, will be a new experience.

“For years, Dan and I have played with a couple of other bass players in Edmonton, and then one went and joined the Army on me,” Rud says.

“I got an email from the Yardbird Suite saying, ‘You might want to check in with your bass player.'”

With his other regular Edmonton bassist also unavailable, Rud went looking.

“From a couple of different sources, I heard this fellow Josh is very good. So this will be an adventure,” he says.”

“While I wasn’t looking, he went and did his degree at McGill. Normally that means I know them, but it at least means there’s a certain amount of shared musical culture there.”

Despite keeping fairly close tabs on the Edmonton jazz scene, Rudd says he frequently hears players he’s not familiar with from that city on CBC.

“Time was, if somebody sounded really strong and they were from Edmonton, there was no way I didn’t know about them,” he says.

“To go back a couple of times a year was to know who there was. Well now, there’s plenty of good, strong players.”

Despite the fact he’ll playing with two Edmontonians in the cabaret-style show at the Yukon Arts Centre on September 30, Rud mused during an interview about possibly including a taste of his new suite of Montreal-themed pieces.

“It’s definitely not jazz trio material, but one or two of them I could do as a solo thing, or retrofit them,” he suggests.

And who knows? It may be a taste of things to come.

Rud hopes the ensemble he puts together for his pending CD—including a string quartet and vocalist Sienna Dahlen—will eventually hit the concert circuit.

It would definitely add to his musical mileage.

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