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Thursday, June 28, 2007

George Russell Fest on dime

I'm trying to squeeze in a little George Russell (wiki) festival on dime before leaving for two weeks vacation in Vienna (July 1 to July 16).

Here's the listing of planned seeds:


#1 - George Russell - Lenox 1960 (re-seed)
#2 - George Russell - Newport 1964 (edited re-seed)
#3 - George Russell - Paris 1964-10-01 (I seeded this before - won't re-seed it now, hopefully someone else steps in)
#4 - George Russell Berlin 1970-11-05 & Don Ellis Berlin 1968-11-08
#5 - George Russell Living Time Orchestra - Perugia 2002-07-15 (edited re-seed)
#6 - Lydian Sound Orchestra w/Charles McPherson - Vicenza 2005-05-21 (re-seed)
#7 - Swedish Living Time Orchestra - Stockholm 2006-05-15 (re-seed - maybe someone else helps me on this one, time may end too soon for this to be included...)

As for George Russell... I consider him one of the most fascinating characters of our beloved music. His albums - I own most of his 50s to early 60s work - belong to the most cherished ones.

:: A couple of albums on RCA ::
Jazz Workshop (his debut from 1956) with Russell not playing himself, but on board are Art Farmer, Hal McKusick & Bill Evans!
New York N.Y. (1958), an ambitious and probably only partly successful project with appearances by John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Jon Hendricks (don't miss the recent Pacific/EMI reissue of his great "Another Git Together" with Cannonball, Pony Poindexter, Wes Montgomery & others!), Al Cohn, Art Farmer, Jimmy Cleveland, Bob Brookmeyer, Benny Golson and many others.

:: Three on Decca ::
First there's his 1960 album Jazz in the Space Age, one of the crowning achievements of his career, including Bill Evans again, but also Paul Bley (they're both soloing together on one tune!), with a big band featuring Ernie Royal, Dave Baker, Barry Galbraith, Milt Hinton, Hal McKusick, Charlie Persip, Don Lamond, Bob Brookmeyer and others.
Then he also did two small group albums, only one of them I have: George Russell Sextet at the Five Spot, a studio album, its title notwithstanding. This album features a Russell working band for the first time: Dave Baker (trombone), Al Kiger (trumpet), Dave Young (tenor sax), Russell (piano), Chuck Israels (bass) and Joe Hunt (drums). They play a bunch of fine tunes, including Carla Bley's "Dance Class" and "Beast Blues", as well as Miles' "Sippin' at Bells", Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" and two originals, one each by Baker and Russell.
His third Decca album, In Kansas City, came in 1961. I am not sure if it's ever been on CD, at least it has never been readily available.

:: Four albums for Riverside ::
This group of albums (I have all except "The Stratus Seekers" - it's on my painfully long Fantasy buying list...) features some great musicians and lots of great music with the definitive Russell sound!
The first one was Stratusphunk (1960) - it features Russell with five of his Lenox School of Jazz students: Al Kiger, Dave Baker, Dave Young, Chuck Israels & Joe Hunt (same band as on the Five Spot album). There's another early Carla Bley tune here, and by now the Russell signature sound is in full blossom!
Ezz-Thetics (1960) has Don Ellis, Eric Dolphy (outstanding bass clarinet on "'Round Midnight"), but also Russell mainstays Dave Baker and Joe Hunt again. Steve Swallow is on bass this time, and Russell has finally settled on the piano bench by this time (he started out on drums - you can hear him on a few tracks on another OJC disc, the reissue of Lucy Reed's Fantasy album This Is Lucy Reed, recorded in 1957). This album features the Miles Davis tune "Nardis" (presumably written by Bill Evans), another original by Baker, as well as three great Russell compositions, including "Lydiot" and the title-tune.
The Stratus Seekers (1962) is by a slightly more obscure band, with Bill Pierce (alto sax) making this a septet. Present again are Ellis, Baker, Hunt and Swallow. Paul Plummer is on tenor. The menu is all originals this time (one each by Kiger & Baker, the rest by Russell).
The last of the four, The Outer View (1962) features Don Ellis, Paul Plummer & Steve Swallow again, with Garnett Brown (trombone) and and Pete La Roca (drums). There's a wonderfully lydianized take on Bird's "Au Privave", the great "D.C. Divertimento", Carla Bley's "Zig-Zag", Russell's title-tune, as well as his arrangement of "You Are My Sunshine", adding Sheila Jordan on vocals (seems this was her recording debut - quite an audacious one!).

:: later albums ::
My collection is still *very* thin there... in fact I have only two additional albums:
The great MPS double album At Beethoven Hall (reissued in the 90s on Motor Music's MPS CD series, which also included albums by Mangelsdorff, Sun Ra and others). This great live album features Don Cherry, Bertil Lofgren (trumpet), Brian Trentham (trommbone), Ray Pitts (tenor), Cameron Brown (bass) and Albert Heath (drums). The concert includes a remake of "You Are My Sunshine" and also a lenghty Lydian suite including Russell's re-workings of "Bags' Groove", "Confirmation" and "'Round Midnight" (by Milt Jackson, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, respectively).
The last one I have is one of this two 80s Blue Notes: The African Game (1983). This is a big band affair, again a rather ambitious and only partially successful work (but hey, New York, N.Y. is still considered a classic, and rightfully so - this one, however not... also rightfully, I guess, but it has a bunch of good moments).
The main beef of Russell's later years has been released on the Italian outfit Soul Note - however, these albums rarely turn up here and I haven't tried yet to find them online. There are too many things I want to buy all the time anyway...


Frédito said...

Wow, UBU, a true labour of love you're making. Thanks for the lengthy introduction to George Russell, whose works are not familiar to me. I'll try to pick up your torrents on Dime

Take care, and enjoy the holidays !

ubu said...

Hi frédito! It's always a pleasure to help someone discover new music! I hope you'll enjoy the ride with George Russell!

woessner said...

Hi ubu,

I just posted another George Russell live recording on Dime that I hope you will enjoy:

George Russell - Public Theatre, New York City - 18 & 19 June 1982

ubu said...

Thanks Russ! Will check it out when back from vacation (July 16th)!

cba said...

Are all this stuff only on dime-club?