Wednesday, February 1, 2017

George Russell - 1961 - Ezz-Thetics

George Russell 

01. Ezz-thetic 8:57
02. Nardis 4:34
03. Lydiot 8:06
04. Thoughts 5:26
05. Honesty 8:55
06. 'Round Midnight 6:29

Alto Saxophone – Eric Dolphy
Arranged By – George Russell
Bass – Stephen Swallow
Bass Clarinet – Eric Dolphy (tracks: A2, B1)
Drums – Joe Hunt
Piano – George Russell
Trombone – Dave Baker
Trumpet – Don Ellis

Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios in New York, May 8, 1961.

With a group of musicians assembled for the occasion, pianist/composer/theorist George Russell goes into Riverside’s studios in 1960 to record Ezz-Thetics. Nowadays frequently found on “greatest jazz albums” lists, this fantastic record is difficult to categorize and that’s for the best. Exacerbated be-bop, modal concepts, hardbop and even hints at burgeoning free-jazz give this opus a unique and enchanting sound. Success always has many fathers. On one hand the compositions are remarkable, the four from Russell unfold with a surprising phrasing that avoids well-trodden paths. Miles Davises “Nardis” is beautifully rearranged and Dave Baker’s “Honesty” adds a bluesy touch that doesn’t hurt the overall cohesion. On the other hand you’ve got the soloists. Baker isn’t afraid to play fast and precise on his trombone, Don Ellis displays his effects but above all Eric Dolphy who already steals the show with his alto solo on the first track. And if all that wasn’t enough the album closes on one of the best version of Monk’s classic “Round Midnight” where Dolphy just dominates and proves his style also works on ballads.

This is a true classic. Composer/pianist George Russell gathered together a very versatile group of talents (trumpeter Don Ellis, trombonist Dave Baker, Eric Dolphy on alto and bass clarinet, bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Joe Hunt) to explore three of his originals, "'Round Midnight" (which is given an extraordinary treatment by Dolphy), Miles Davis' "Nardis," and David Baker's "Honesty." The music is post-bop and although using ideas from avant-garde jazz, it does not fall into any simple category. The improvising is at a very high level and the frameworks (which include free and stop-time sections) really inspire the players. Highly recommended.

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