Wednesday, February 1, 2017

George Russell - 1960 - Stratusphunk

George Russell 

01. Stratusphunk 6:03
02. New Donna 8:18
03. Bent Eagle 6:05
04. Kentucky Oysters 8:16
05. Lambskins 7:05
06. Things New 6:52

Arranged By – George Russell
Bass – Chuck Israel
Composed By – George Russell (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Cover – Ken Deardoff
Drums – Joe Hunt
Piano – George Russell
Tenor Saxophone – Dave Young
Trombone – Dave Baker
Trumpet – Al Kiger

Recorded October 16, 1960 New York.

From 1960-1962, arranger/composer George Russell recorded six albums with his working combo that found him contributing "arranger's piano." The two Decca dates are very scarce, but the four Riversides have fortunately been reissued on CD under the Original Jazz Classics imprint. For this particular date, Russell is joined by five students at the Lenox School of Jazz: trumpeter Al Kiger, trombonist Dave Baker (who in the future would become an important jazz educator), tenor saxophonist Dave Young, bassist Chuck Israels, and drummer Joe Hunt. Surprisingly, only three of the six selections are Russell originals ("Bent Eagle" was an early effort by Carla Bley), but the leader's influence can be felt in all of the adventurous and slightly unusual yet swinging music.

Lovers of Gil Evans will recognise the title track by Mr Russell which Evans arranged for big band and which appears if I recall correctly on his OUT OF THE COOL. Mr Evans kept good company with the likes of Miles Davis and George Russell as in the context of this album STRATUSPHUNK being recorded 45 years ago; written with Mr Russell's usual panache and arranged with meticulous care to dynamics and colour and with recognizable melodies whilst swinging like mad, this is a five star enterprise. In addition, it includes a track written by Carla Bley and one by David Baker (also on tramboon). Al Kiger plays superbly on trumpet, Dave Young is on tenor and cooks, Chuck Israels is a master on bass with a pedigree to die for (he opens the disc with a strolling solo) Joe Hunt does a fine job on the drum kit and the leader, composer, arranger adds colour and harmony and rhythm on the piano. This program of music makes you (so to speak) sit up and pay attention. Great stuff. Do not deny yourself the pleasure.

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