George Allen Russell (1923 - ), American jazz pianist, composer and theorist, is considered one of the first jazz musicians to contribute to general music theory with a theory of harmony based on Jazz rather than European music, in his 1953 book, The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization which paved the way for the modal revolutions of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Russell's stylistic reach in his own compositions eventually became omnivorous, embracing bop, gospel, blues, rock, funk, contemporary classical elements, electronic music and African rhythms in his recent, ambitious extended works -- most apparent in his large-scale 1983 suite for an enlarged big band, The African Game. Like his colleague Gil Evans, Russell never stopped growing, but his work is not nearly as well-known that that of Evans, being more difficult to grasp and, in any case, not as well-documented by U.S. record labels.
We try to remedy this here with this magnificent 1978 session when Russell led a 19-piece big band at New York's Village Vanguard for six weeks, in a tremendously diverse performance displaying the many facets of his art -- including his first famous composition, the two-part "Cubano Be, Cubano Bop" written in 1947 for the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra that served as a solid vehicle of that band's pioneering experiments in fusing bebop and Cuban jazz elements, enjoy.
Let's turn the clock back a bit and imagine it's 1955. Trumpeter Buck Clayton led a series of exciting studio jam sessions then in the company of stalwart swing soloists Joe Newman, Joe Thomas, Billy Butterfield, and Ruby Braff on trumpets; trombonists Urbie Green, Benny Powell, Henderson Chambers, Trummy Young, Bennie Green, Dicky Harris, J.C. Higginbotham, and Tyree Glenn; altoist Lem Davis; tenors Coleman Hawkins, Al Cohn, and Buddy Tate; Julian Dash doubling on tenor and alto; baritonist Charlie Fowlkes; several rhythm sections with pianists Sir Charles Thompson, Jimmy Jones, Billy Kyle, Ken Kersey, and the forgotten Al Waslohn. Results are trouser-flapping, unadulterated swing of the highest order and in pristine sonic quality to boot. Swing lovers should not miss this one.
The attitude of the gallant Six Hundred which so aroused Lord Tennyson's admiration arose from the fact that the least disposition to ask the reason why was discouraged by tricing the would-be inquirer to the triangle and flogging him into insensibility.
Advance to Barbarism
(Mitre Press, 1968).
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