Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Horace Tapscott - 1969 - The Giant Is Awakened

Horace Tapscott 
The Giant Is Awakened

01. The Giant Is Awakened 17:23
02. For Fats 2:20
03. The Dark Tree 7:01
04. Niger's Theme 11:55

Alto Saxophone – Black Arthur Blythe
Bass – David Bryant, Walter Savage Jr.
Drums – Everett Brown Jr.
Piano – Horace Tapscott

Fantastic LP, as are all by Tapscott.  On the title track, Tapscott lays down this heavy heavy groove and carries the rest of the group along.  It's just driving and he is pounding the keys.  Not virtuosity on display, but pure emotion, althought there are plenty of examples here and on his other LP's where his abilities are on full display.  The rest of the LP holds to the standard set on this track.   I have yet to hear an LP led by him, be it solo piano, his drum/piano duets, trio, or his large ensembles releases that is not worth it's weight in gold.

There are very few musicians who can be turned towards to feel the beating heart of African-American ethos. Horace Tapscott is one of them. The blunt force with which he strikes piano keys is reminiscent of the hard edge in the deepest part of the blues. The angularity of his attack, which makes for a dramatic, slanted enunciation, also reminds the listener that the blues can also be beautiful and subtle. In Mr. Tapscott’s musicianship there is also the reminder that the blues swings and is ebullient as it proclaims the triumph of human endeavour, but it is also haunting as it traverses through all the pain of being black in America. This is why he always gave the feeling of being heraldic and served as a moral compass for musicians and listeners alike. Mr. Tapscott’s music produced an elemental ache in the heart of the listener just as much as it shaped the eventual joy that came from experiencing that melancholic thorn in the soul. Such was the power of Horace Tapscott’s music as it roamed the topography of African-American culture that it described the racism against a people in a brutal and unexpurgated way. But more than anything, more than the striking mirror it held up against society, it reflected the anguish of discrimination and the art that pronounced it.

Horace Tapscott’s seminal recording The Giant is Awakened was cause for celebration when it was first produced in 1969 by Bob Thiele and released on the Flying Dutchman imprint. And now, Jonathan Horwich and his International Phonograph Inc. have produced a brilliantly packaged re-issue. This is a project worthy of recognition all over again for all of the reasons mentioned earlier. But it is also worthy of remembering again for the genius of Mr. Tapscott’s writing. First of all, like all modern masters, the pianist shows his deep sense of history. He belongs to the finest tradition not only of pianists but also of musicians who held fast to unbridled excellence. “Fats” Waller—the genius he celebrates in his own composition entitled “Fats”—runs through his veins and spills out onto the keyboard. And like that other genius, Mr. Tapscott wastes no time on useless virtuosity. Each note is heartfelt, but is also precisely where it should be. This makes for the lean and sinewy manner in which his phrasing and also his lines excite the listener. His stories are also vivid: They can be ominous as in “The Giant is Awakened” and “The Dark Tree” and they can also be fantastic as they unfolded in a vivid, yet dreamlike manner, as in “Niger’s Theme”.

At a time when much music is thin on substance this record is a timely reminder that great music should never be forgotten. Unfortunately the record also comes at a time when John Coltrane’s Offering and Charles Lloyd’s Manhattan Stories are being lionized in the press. But The Giant is Awakened should not be allowed to pass like a ship in the night. Nor should the importance of Mr. Horwich’s endeavours be allowed to be in vain. This is and will always be an important record returning at an important but unfortunate time in the history of discrimination against the African-American Diaspora.

George Russell - 2008 - Live in Bremen and Paris

George Russell 
Live in Bremen and Paris

01. Round Midnight 7:38
02. You Are My Sunshine 11:10
03. D.C. Divertimento 9:17
04. Sippin' At Bells 6:42
05. The Outer View 11:04
06. Volupte 12:35
07. You Are My Sunshine 11:06
08. D.C. Divertimento 9:01

George Russelll: Piano
Thad Jones: Cornet & Trumpet
Garnett Brown: Trombone
Joe Farrell: Sax
Barre Phillips: Bass
Albert Heath: Drums

George Russell was an innovative composer who gathered a lot of attention in the late 1950s and early '60s, though this pair of previously unissued concerts from a 1964 tour of Western Europe mark his earliest known live recordings. Having issued several acclaimed LPs for Riverside prior to its demise, much of the material on this CD draws from those albums, though with a different lineup. The pianist took his challenging charts on the road, producing fascinating results. Tenor saxophonist Joe Farrell takes the place of alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy (who died in Europe a few months prior to these performances) in the superb arrangement of "Round Midnight," though Farrell doesn't quite reach the emotional peak of Dolphy's solo. The band also includes Thad Jones (on cornet and trumpet), trombonist Garnett Brown, bassist Barre Phillips, and drummer Tootie Heath. There are two separate takes of "You Are My Sunshine," neither of which feature vocalist Sheila Jordan, who was a part of Russell's other recordings of it, instead, Jones is the featured soloist. His playful, imaginative take delights the Bremen, Germany audience, though there is some negative reaction from some people during the Paris recording made a few days later. There are also two takes of Russell's complex "D.C. Divertimento," a collage of contrasting elements suggesting a city in an uproar. Russell's "The Outer View" is a dissonant extended work that upsets some of the Paris audience, as catcalls and boos are heard along with the applause, causing him to laugh and comment "The next composition some of you might like even less," which proves correct, as some people are rather unhappy with his constantly shifting suite "Volupte" as well. The sound is quite good for both shows, suggesting well-preserved broadcast tape sources. This is a very welcome addition to George Russell's discography.

George Russell - 2007 - Things New-Unissued Concerts 1960 & 1964

George Russell 
Things New-Unissued Concerts 1960 & 1964

01. Introduction (1:42)
02. Things New (7:58)
03. Dance Class (3:38)
04. Potting Shed (4:34)
05. Stratusphunk (6:35)
06. The Outer View (9:30)
07. Stratusphunk (7:08)
08. Volupte (11:59)
09. You Are The Sunshine (8:58)
10. Around Midnight (6:33)

Tracks from three recently discovered 1960’s concerts, by the celebrated arranger, pianist & experimental theorist, George Russell, released here for the very first time - and from the same period as his famous “Ezz-Thetics” album (1961) with Eric Dolphy. Included are new versions of the Russell classics: “Stratusphunk” and “The Outer View”.

1-5: Berkshire Music Barn, Lennox, Massachusetts, September 1, 1960.
6-9: Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, R.I., July 1964.
10: Europe, July, 1964.

Personnel / Recorded:

George Russell - piano, arranger
Al Kiger - trumpet
Dave Baker - trombone
Dave Young - tenor sax
Chuck Israels - bass
Joe Hunt - drums
David Lahm - replace G.Russell on piano [#4 only]
Recorded at Berkshire Music Barn, Lennox, Massachusetts, September 1, 1960
Don Ellis - trumpet
Dave Baker - trombone
John Gilmore - tenor sax
Steve Swallow - bass
Pete La Roca - drums
Sheila Jordan - vocals [#9 only]
Recorded at Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, R.I., July 1964
Thad Jones - cornet
Garnett Brown - trombone
Joe Farrell - saxes
Unknown musician - bass
Al Heath - drums
Recorded in Europe, July, 1964

There were few examples of early-'60s live recordings featuring composer/pianist George Russell for decades, then suddenly, several live sets appeared over a two year period between 2007 and 2008. This compilation on Rare Live Recordings includes a previously unissued set in 1960 at the Berkshire Music Barn in New England, a 1964 Newport Jazz Festival set (possibly taped by Voice of America for broadcast overseas), plus one song from a 1964 European concert. The first four tracks, all from 1960, include a band with trombonist David Baker, trumpeter Al Kiger, tenor saxophonist Dave Young, bassist Chuck Israels, and drummer Joe Hunt. Russell's style of forward-thinking jazz pleases the audience, especially the post-bop cooker "Things New" showcasing Baker, and David Lahm, one of Russell's students and the son of the famous lyricist Dorothy Fields, subs on piano, playing his complex original "Potting Shed," which shows the influence of his mentor. The tasty though unusual blues "Stratusphunk" has a great walking bassline, dissonant piano, and sassy muted trumpet. The Newport material faced special challenges, as Russell jokes about bringing rocks up onto the outdoor stage to hold the music in place. One can hear the wind hitting the microphone during some of his comments. Russell and Baker are joined by trumpeter Don Ellis, tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, bassist Steve Swallow (prior to his switch to electric bass), and drummer Pete "La Roca" Sims. The leader's challenging compositions "The Outer View" and "Volupte" are well received, though they produced catcalls from some members of European audiences during a tour later in the year. Vocalist Sheila Jordan is added for Russell's dissonant treatment of "You Are My Sunshine." The final track, from an unknown European venue, has tenorist Joe Farrell taking over the lead role from alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy (on the original studio session) in the pianist's superb arrangement of "'Round Midnight," with Russell adding some far out chords, though Farrell doesn't quite match Dolphy's emotion. The sound isn't flawless and there is some slight variation in the audio, a little muddy sound here and there and some wow, but hardly enough to keep from investigating these historic performances.

George Russell - 2005 - The 80th Birthday Concert

George Russell 
The 80th Birthday Concert

101. Listen To The Silence (Excerpt) 5:36
102. Announcement 0:40
103. Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature / Announcements
1 Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature 27:18
2 Announcements 0:25

201. The African Game
1 Event 1: Organic Live On Earth Begins 4:32
2 Event 2: The Paleolithic Game 3:44
3 Event 3: Consciousness 2:45
4 Event 4: The Survival Game 7:06
5 Event 5: The Human Sensing Of Unity With Great Nature 0:45
6 Event 6: African Empires 7:15
7 Event 7: Cartesian Man 3:32
8 Event 8: The Mega-Minimalist Age 3:36
9 Event 9: The Future? 6:10
202. It's About Time 12:19
203. So What 12:19

Alto Saxophone – Chris Biscoe
Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Pete Hurt
Drums – Richie Morales
Electric Bass [Fender Bass] – Bill Urmson
Flute, Electronics – Hiro Honshuku
Guitar – Mike Walker
Keyboards – Brad Hatfield, Steve Lodder
Leader – George Russell
Percussion – Pat Hollenbeck
Tenor Saxophone – Andy Sheppard
Trombone [Bass Trombone] – Dave Bargeron
Trumpet – Palle Mikkelborg, Stanton Davis, Stuart Brooks

Recorded live on tour in June 2003.

George Russell has been a highly original arranger-composer in creative music for nearly 60 years, writing and performing music that is in its own world, with its own rules, logic, and genius. Although he has made some great recordings along the way, there have also been stretches when he was not that prolifically documented. The 80th Birthday Concert, a two-CD set, stands as one of his finest recordings and sums up much of his career. Conducting his 15-piece Living Time Orchestra, Russell performs new and innovative versions of "Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature" and the multi-part "African Game," which is over 40 minutes long and ends quite wildly. In addition the orchestra performs the briefer "Listen to the Silence," "It's About Time," and a reworking of the Miles Davis trumpet solo from "So What." While many soloists are heard from (most notably trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, tenor saxophonist Andy Sheppard, and trombonist Dave Bargeron), it is the sound of the passionate ensembles, the very original writing, and the spirit of the musicians and the ageless Russell that makes this a highly recommended set.

George Russell - 1986 - So What

George Russell 
So What

01. So What 7:54
02. Rhymes 6:21
03. War Gewesen 5:12
04. Time Spiral 19:22

Acoustic Bass – Bob Nieske (tracks: A1, B)
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Dave Mann (tracks: A1, B), Janus Steprans
Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute – Brad Jones (tracks: A1, B)
Bass Trombone – Jeff Marsanskas (tracks: A1, B)
Conductor – George Russell (tracks: A1, B)
Congas – Joe Galeota (tracks: A1, B)
Drums – Keith Copeland
Electric Bass [Fender Bass] – Bill Urmson
French Horn – Marshall Sealy (tracks: A1, B)
Guitar – Mark White
Keyboards – Bruce Barth (tracks: A1, B), Marc Rossi
Percussion – Dave Hagedorn (tracks: A1, B)
Producer [Musical] – George Russell
Supervised By [Production Consultant] – Marty Khan
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – George Garzone (tracks: A1, B)
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Gary Joynes
Trombone – Chip Kaner, Peter Cirelli (tracks: A1, B)
Trumpet [First Trumpet] – Mike Peipman (tracks: A1, B)
Trumpet [Fourth Trumpet] – Mark Harvey (8)
Trumpet [Second Trumpet] – Chris Passin* (tracks: A1, B)
Trumpet [Third Trumpet] – Roy Okutani (tracks: A1, B)

Mastered at: Sterling Sound, New York, New York
Recorded live at Emanuel Church, Boston, Massachusetts, June 18, 1983.

These tracks were recorded at the same Boston church concert that yielded The African Game, and Russell's Living Time Orchestra responds with the same kick and enthusiasm, although the musicians' individual solo turns aren't terribly startling. Half the CD is taken up by a performance of Russell's "Time Spiral," which opens promisingly but soon evolves into a pair of eventually tiresome funk vamps tied together with an episode of atonality. Russell's idiosyncratic take on Miles Davis' "So What" is built around a transcribed version of Miles' original solo, and it rocks to the modal changes without ever stating the theme. Russell uses an eight-person update of the Smalltet on the modal "Rhymes" and "War Gewesen," which roll forth on a distinct funk beat with plenty of Fender bass underpinning. Consider this as a supplement to The African Game, further evidence of Russell's (mixed?) desire to come to terms with the idioms of his time.

George Russell - 1985 - The African Game

George Russell 
The African Game

01. Organic Life On Earth Begins 6:38
02. The Paleolithic Game 4:32
03. Consciousness 2:22
04. The Survival Game 7:45
05. The Human Sensing Of Unity With Great Nature 0:50
06. African Empires 8:23
07. Cartesian Man 3:28
08. The Mega Minimalist Age 4:04
09. The Future? 7:18

Acoustic Bass – Bob Nieske
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Dave Mann, Janus Steprans
Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute – Brad Jones
Bass Trombone – Jeff Marsanskas
Conductor, Composed By – George Russell
Drums – Keith Copeland
Electric Bass [Fender] – Bill Urmson
French Horn – Marshall Sealy
Guitar – Mark White
Keyboards – Bruce Barth, Marc Rossi
Percussion – Dave Hagedorn
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – George Garzone
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Gary Joynes
Trombone – Chip Kaner, Peter Cirelli
Trumpet [1st] – Mike Peipman
Trumpet [2nd] – Chris Pasin
Trumpet [3rd] – Roy Okutani
Trumpet [4th] – Mark Harvey

Recorded live at Emmanuel Church, Boston, Massachusetts, June 18, 1983.
This release is made possible with the help of the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities.

George Russell's The African Game is a major statement, a highly eclectic, nine-part, 45-minute suite for augmented big band that attempts to depict no less than the evolution of the species from the beginning of time to the present from an African perspective. Well, yes, this theme has been taken on by many an ambitious artist in every field, but Russell's work is remarkably successful because it tries to embrace a massive world of sound in open, colorful, young-thinking terms, with degrees of timbral unity and emotion to keep the idioms from flying out of control. There are traditional big band sounds here, but one is more likely to encounter electronics, African drumming by the five-piece group Olu Bata, atonality, rock, funk, even the sound of electric pencil sharpeners. Ironically, the section with the strongest injections of funk is entitled "The Survival Game (Survival of the Fittest)" -- possibly a barbed comment on the mercenary realities of the music business -- and "The Mega-Minimalist Age (Style Over Substance: The Decline of the Spirit)" leaves no doubt as to Russell's jaundiced view of commercial pop culture. The recording was made with help of grants from the state of Massachusetts and the NEA at the work's American premiere in a Boston church, and the performance sounds crisp and well-rehearsed. Indeed, this release Russell's first on a U.S. label in 13 years, and was an early sign from the newly revived (as of 1985) Blue Note label that they intended to be a major force in the jazz business again after sporadic patches of activity and neglect. So they have been ever since, despite deleting this CD.

One thing's for sure, you can't accuse of George Russell for thinking too small.  From his Lydian theory breaking ground for modal jazz, to his use of tape music and electronics, to writing at least one urban ballet suite, to being one of the few to name-check UNICEF as an inspiration for a composition ... He's definitely one of those composers who thinks of music as an evolving art - not only in itself, but in how we can perceive the world around us through music.

And this release is no exception - it's nothing less than the entire history of the human race as a funky, experimental modal jazz suite.  He sees the evolution of mankind as a game:  "God said grace / And rolled the dice / On the human race", and divides the work into "Events", beginning with "Event I: Organic Life on Earth Begins (Uni-celled Beings to Amphibians)".  It starts with the hiss of slithering out of the primordial slime, and slowly, quietly begins the journey from formlessness to intent.  From there, the Paleolithic Game is indicated by an Afro-throbbing drum circle morphing into a more 70's-styled jazz-funk, with a James Brown-ish emphasis on the first beat, yet with a strange syncopated six-count structure and free-jazz sax wailing that gives it a primal feel, while remaining heady.

That's pretty much the drift - alternating between recognizeable fusion, a world-beat tribalism, metaphysical noodling, and frequent blues licks.  Yeah - the blues.  It's not a cheery interpretation of mankind, as indicated by his snidely intellectual titles, like "Event VII: Cartesian Man (The Ascent of Technocentricity, and Its Division of Man and Nature, the Fragmentation of All and Everything)", which is actually a pretty fun tune - mechanical but chaotic, shifting and bewildering.  But then there's also horribly depressing tracks like "Event IV: The Survival Game (Survival of the Fittest)", following a rote, lengthy disco groove which MUST be a comment on the sad state of trying to survive as a professional jazz musician in the 80's.  Currently, we're living "Event VIII: The Mega-Minimalist Age (Style Over Substance, The Decline of the Spirit)".  Not too sure how the music is supposed to reflect that - it's actually one of the album's best tracks, as it swings, throbs, and grooves between genres, with sections of African drumming and passages of frantic city street hustle and bustle.

So then, is George Russell saying that that track just plays around with style, throwing any progressive musical theory aside?  Is he dismissing his own music as merely enjoyable, or celebrating it?  It's probably true that we live in an age of style over substance - we're certainly busying ourselves with a lot of fluff (hello, RYM!) and very static, backward-looking ideas about spirituality - evolution be damned.  As a race of people we're losing the game ... but as a child of this vapid age, at least I'm having fun playing it.

George Russell - 1983 - Live In An American Time Spiral

George Russell 
Live In An American Time Spiral

01. Time Spiral 22:25
02. Ezz-thetic 16:30
03. D.C. Divertimento 10:17

Brian Leach ( Trumpet )
Doug Miller ( Sax Tenor )
Earl McIntyre ( Trombone )
George Russell ( Piano, Organ )
Jack Reilly ( Keyboards )
Jerome Harris ( Acoustic Bass Guitar )
Mark Soskin ( Keyboards )
Marty Ehrlich ( Alto Sax, Flute )
Ray Anderson ( Trombone )
Ron McClure ( Bass )
Stanton Davis ( Trumpet, Flugelhorn )
Tom Harrell ( Trumpet )
Victor Lewis ( Drums )
Ron Tooley ( Trumpet )
Bob Hanlon ( Baritone Sax )

Recorded July 30 and 31, 1982, New York
Remastered June 1, 1983 at Barigozzi Studio, Milan

Time Spiral was commissioned by the Sweedish Radio Broadcasting System in 1979

 "Live in An American Time Spiral" captures legendary composer, arranger, educator, NEA Jazz Master, and 'MacArthur Fellow' George Russell, who created the highly-praised and innovative "Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization" music theory, in a live performance by his 14 piece orchestra in NYC circa 1982. With a group of young but well-seasoned rising stars, Russell presents one of his jazz standards, along with the multi-tempo, mercurial "Time Spiral" which was commissioned by the Swedish Radio Broadcasting System and finally the intriguing, atmospheric "DC Divertimento", commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Jazz Festival. And the performances are spectacular, from all aspects of compositions, arrangements, and solos. And the `cham-peen' of the night is one of the best versions ever of Russell's jazz standard composition "Ezz-thetic", written for heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles, featuring blazing, memorable solos from ascendant 'youngsters' Marty Ehrlich on tenor sax, Tom Harrell on trumpet, Ray Anderson on trombone and Victor Lewis on drums, based on a marvelous arrangement by saxophonist/educator Jerry Coker, who 'raises the stakes' near the end with marvelous unison statements and 'trades' between soloists. The soundscape has a 'here-there' feel to it among the orchestra sections with the saxes closer to the mike and the trumpets farther away, but it's acceptable and the solos are on mike in the orchestra. The single track "Ezz-thetic" is worth the price of the CD alone, which is very reasonable. George Russell: one of the great jazz composers and band leaders. My Highest Recommendation.

George Russell - 1982 - Trip To Prillarguri

George Russell 
Trip To Prillarguri 

01. Theme 7:17
02. Souls 8:54
03. Event III 3:04
04. Vips 4:25
05. Stratusphunk 8:41
06. Esoteric Circle 4:57
07. Man On The Moon 11:05

Bass – Arild Andersen
Composed By – George Russell (tracks: A2, A3, B2), Jan Garbarek (tracks: A1, B1, B3)
Drums – Jon Christensen
Electric Guitar – Terje Rypdal
Tenor Saxophone – Jan Garbarek
Trumpet – Stanton Davis Jr.

Wow! In a fair world, this exceptional modern jazz album would have been issued by a major American jazz label –like Prestige or Blue Note—with decent liner notes explaining who was playing and what was going on in it. But it wasn’t. It was released –twelve years late—by the Italian label Soul Not with virtually no liner notes –doesn’t tell who plays, where recorded—and as a result, almost no one bought it, even those, like me, who admired Russell’s work in the States in the mid-60s. The album was recorded in concert in Sweden in 1970. Pianist-composer Russell was 47. The players he assembled for the concert were young: saxist Garbarek was 23 and drummer Christensen was the oldest at 27. All of them, with the exception of trumpeter Davis, went on to distinguished careers in jazz. They are all very good here. Garbarek was just starting to find his voice: he fluctuates between his earlier infatuation with distortion a la Ayler, Sanders, Shepp et cie., and his later smoothed out, no vibrato, boring ahead focus on sound and silence. Guitarist Rypdal, a little older, had already developed his sound, which used the potential for distortion inherent in his axe. Andersen and Christensen, who would play together repeatedly, were as good a rhythm duo as any group could expect, capable of moving from straight time keeping to subtle rhythmic and sound variations (drummer Christensen) or complementing second melody lines (bassist Andersen). Christensen became even better at what he did –one of the subtlest, most versatile of modern drummers—but he’s doing it awfully well even here. As for Andersen, I ‘ve never heard him play better.

The set comprises four tunes by Russell including probably his best known composition, “Stratusphunk,” which was recorded by Russell’s sextet in 1959 on the album of the same name and the next year by the Gil Evans Orchestra on Out of the Cool; two tunes by Garbarek; and one by Ornette Coleman (“Man on the Moon”, which was released in 1969 as a special single –two tunes- vinyl EP to commemorate America’s moon landing). Anyone who has listened to a George Russell album knows what a great arranger and composer he was. Even on the tunes he’d didn’t write, there are interesting touches in ensemble and backing. Russell solos on this album, but they aren’t long solos. The major soloists are the three horns –Davis, Garbarek, Rypdal. This is exciting music. Though resolutely, modern, it is immediately accessible. Even the listener who has reservations about modernism in jazz should enjoy it. A lot.

George Russell - 1982 - New York Big Band

George Russell 
New York Big Band

01. Living Time, Event V (George Russell) 10:50
02. Big City Blues (George Russell) 9:26
03. Listen to the Silence, Part I (George Russell) 4:36
04. Cubano Be, Cubano Bop (George Russell / Dizzy Gillespie) 10:30
05. Mystic Voices (Stanton Davis) 6:02
06. God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday / Al Herzog) 5:29
07. Listen to the Silence, Part II (George Russell) 3:59

Recorded August 16, 1978, New York except « Cubano Be, Cubano Bop » recorded live in Estrad, Sodertalje, Sweden, March 10, 1977.

New York Big Band Personnel:

Goetz Tangerding – Acoustic Piano
Stanley Cowell – Piano on « Living Time, Event V »
Ricky Martinez – Electric Piano, Organ
Warren Smith – Drums
Cameron Brown – Bass
Mark Slifstein – Guitar
Babafumi Akunyon – Congas
Stanton Davis – Trumpet
Lew Soloff – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Terumasa Hino – Trumpet
Ricky Ford – Tenor Sax
Roger Rosenberg – Tenor Sax
Marty Ehrlich – Alto Sax
Carl Atkins – Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet
John Clark – French Horn
Gary Valente – Trombone
Dave Taylor – Bass Trombone
Lee Genesis – Vocalist

Swedish Radio Jazz Orchestra Personnel:

Vlodek Gulgowski – Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano
Lars Beijbon – Drums
Sabu Martinez – Congas, Vocalist
Lars-Urban Helje – Bass
Rune Gustafsson – Guitar
Americo Bellotto – Trumpet
Bertil Lövgren – Trumpet
Håken Nyquist – Trumpet
Jan Allan – Trumpet
Arne Domnerus – Alto Sax
Ian Uling – Alto Sax
Lennart Åberg – Tenor Sax
Erik Nilsson – Baritone Sax
Bernt Rosengren – Tenor Sax
Lars Olofsson – Trombone
Sven Larsson – Bass Trombone
Bengt Edvarsson – Trombone
Jörgen Johansson – Trombone

1. Living Time, Event V
Stanley Cowell – Piano
Cameron Brown – Bass solo
John Clark – French Horn solo
Gary Valente – Trombone solo
Roger Rosenberg – Tenor solo
2. Big City Blues
Lee Genesis – Vocalist
Ricky Ford – Tenor solo
Terumasa Hino – Trumpet solo
3. Listen to the Silence, Part I
Stanton Davis – Trumpet solo
4. Cubano Be, Cubano Bop
Performers – The Swedish Radio Jazz Orchestra
Sabu Martinez – Congas and Vocals
Bertil Lövgren, Americo Bellotto – Trumpet solos
5. Mystic Voices
Stanton Davis – Trumpet solo
6. God Bless the Child
Lee Genesis – Vocalist
Roger Rosenberg – Tenor solo
7. Listen to the Silence, Part II
Stanton Davis – Trumpet solo

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. All That Jazz

George Russell - 1981 - Vertical Form VI

George Russell 
Vertical Form VI

01. Event I 9:07
02. Event II 15:03
03. Event III 4:36
04. Event IV 9:24
05. Event V 1:59

Acoustic Bass – Bronislav Suchanek, Lars-Urban Helje
Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute – Erik Nilsson
Celesta, Organ, Electric Piano, Clavinet – Monica Dominique
Congas – Sabu Martinez
Drums – Lars Beijbon, Leroy Lowe
Electric Bass – Stefan Brolund
Electric Piano – Björn Lind
French Horn – Ivar Olsen
Guitar – Rune Gustafsson
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet – Arne Domnerus
Synthesizer, Electric Piano – Vlodek Gulgowski
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute – Ian Uling
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Lennart Åberg
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute – Bernet Rosengren
Trombone – Bengt Edvarsson, Jörgen Johansson, Lars Olofsson
Trombone [Bass], Tuba – Sven Larsson
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Americo Bellotto, Bertil Lövgren
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, French Horn – Håken Nyqvist
Trumpet, French Horn – Jan Allan

Recorded live in Estrad, Sodertalje, Sweden on March 10, 1977, under commission from the Swedish Radio Broadcasting Company.

If you're a fan of Gil Evans, Don Ellis, Stan Kenton, Miles' "In A Silent Way", or Les McCann's "Invitation to Openness", then "Vertical Form VI" (recorded live in 1977) is something you should check out ASAP. These are highly evocative big-band-electric-jazz tone poems; sit back and close your eyes while listening on headfones, and there's no telling where this music might take you. The sound is dense and complex, yet very open and spacious. Event II manages to be simultaneously fast-paced and glacially slow. And underneath its many layers of counterpoint, Event IV has a killer funk bassline that dancemixing DJs ought to sample, if they haven't already. (BTW, who's playing the rhythm banjo?) Perhaps Cliff Tinder, reviewing the original LP release in Musician magazine, said it best: "...a grand architectural edifice rises toward the sky... The richness of texture is almost tactile. The image is of monumental objects in gradual revolution." [Exactly!] "And amazingly, Russell's edifices swing. Tenaciously." Although many music critics past and present have indulged in sneering, ignorant dismissals of 1970s "fusion", there were many albums that gave that genre a GOOD name, and this is one of them. I only wish I could have attended this performance in person, to be knocked out by all the live power of this large ensemble. Thank you, Mr Russell!

George Russell - 1980 - Electronic Sonata Four Souls Loved By Nature - 1980

George Russell 
Electronic Sonata Four Souls Loved By Nature - 1980

01. Part One 26:03
02. Part Two 26:30

Bass – Red Mitchell
Design – Marit Jerstad
Drums – Jon Christensen
Electric Guitar – Terje Rypdal
Piano, Producer, Composed By – George Russell
Tenor Saxophone – Jan Garbarek
Trumpet – Manfred Schoof

Recorded live at the Sonja Henie/Niels Onstad Center For The Arts, on April 28th, 1969, at Høvikodden, near Oslo, Norway.

The electronic tapes was composed in the Electronic Music Studios (EMS) of the Swedish Radio in Stockholm.

The tapes of African vocals and lute was recorded by Cal Floyd in 1967 in Nile headquarters region of North Uganda.

A second take on George Russell’s masterwork, recorded eleven years later with a different lineup (Victor Comer, Keith Copeland, Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark, Robert Moore, Lew Soloff) and a markedly dissimilar orchestration. This version switches the piano for organ, slows down the tempo of the opening movement to a funky amble, and makes many other changes. Many passages have the same electric thrill as the 1969 performance, although the brass sounds a touch sloppy and flatulent (particularly in the first movements). I still prefer the original, but this one — and the Essence of George Russell version — are fascinating to compare, both in terms of details and the overall sweep and execution of the piece.

George Russell - 1973 - Listen To The Silence

George Russell 
Listen To The Silence

Listen To The Silence - A Mass For Our Time
01. Event I 6:31
02. Event II 8:19
03. Event III 16:18
04. Event IV 13:56

Bass [Double] – Arild Andersen
Bass [Electric] – Bjornar Andresen
Composed By – George Russell
Guitar [Electric] – Terje Rypdal
Organ – Webster Lewis
Percussion – Jon Christensen
Piano [Electric] – Bobo Stenson
Saxophone [Tenor] – Jan Garbarek
Timpani – George Russell
Trumpet – Stanton Davis
Voice [Alto] – Joyce Gippo, Kay Dunlap
Voice [Bass] – Dan Windham, Don Hovey, Don Kendrick
Voice [Soprano] – Gailanne Cummings, Sue Auclair
Voice [Tenor] – David Dusing, Ray Hardin

From back cover:
"Listen to the Silence" was commissioned by the Norwegian Cultural Fund for the 1971 Kongsberg Jazz Festival, specifically for performance in the Kongsberg Church in Kongsberg, Norway. This is the "live" recording of the premiere held at the church on June 26, 1971.

The choir is the Chorus of the Musikk Konservatoriet of Oslo with Supplementary Chorus from the New England Conservatory of Music.

"Listen to the Silence" was commissioned by the Norwegian Cultural Fund for the 1971 Kongsberg Jazz Festival, specifically for performance in the Kongsberg Church in Kongsberg, Norway. This is the "live" recording of the premiere held at the church on June 26, 1971. The choir is the Chorus of the Musikk Konservatoriet of Oslo with Supplementary Chorus from the New England Conservatory of Music.

Listen to the Silence, in which Russell's very title is advice of some kind, open for interpretation, originated in an early-'70s Scandinavian sojourn. Indeed it is considered part of the major works of the composer and arranger from this period, beyond that his entire catalog of compositions, a main theme subsequently used in the manner of an overture, celebratory Russell muscle. What is being celebrated seems to be controversy, judging once again from varied reactions to the 1971 release. Four sections, the first two short, the second two epic, are titled simply as numbered events. As a whole Listen to the Silence is defined as a mass for orchestra and chorus in a series of "vertical form" works described by the composer as "layers or strata of divergent modes of rhythmic behavior." The Norwegian Cultural Fund coughed up the doolah to make it happen and it was premiered in Kongsberg, a small town famous for its goldmine.
"This CD really stinks," emphasizes one public commentary on the subject. To another listener, Russell created "a harrowing work of conscience." Defined in the dictionary as "extremely distressing" or an "act of plunder," the word is a more than suitable description for the experience fans of Norwegian jazz have when embroiled in the Russell controversy.
The composer's accomplices here are young musicians from the expensive northern land who would go on to build an international fan base with their ECM recording activities. Terje Rypdal and Jan Garbarek -- guitarist and saxophonist, respectively, both with sounds capable of killing a squirrel at 30 feet -- are the best known of the crowd involved in this performance. The problem is they don't have much to do, at least that is audible in the mix, Russell having gone in another direction from Duke Ellington's concept of setting extended pieces around talented soloists.
A non-Scandanavian in the crowd is Webster Lewis, creator of a series of instrumental disco hits only a few years later that would have probably made Russell sick to his stomach. Lewis also worked as Barry White's music director, so -- voila! -- a missing link between that big love machine and the controversial Russell.
The piece belongs to the canon of composition -- prevalent in most all genres although perhaps not disco that makes hay with unfortunate political events, in this case the Vietnam war and genocide committed against native Americans. A classical chorus was brought in from the Oslo music conservatory, even that wasn't enough mouths for all the controversy so Russell added almost 10 more singers. These voices proclaim excerpts from Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as well as excerpts from texts by Rainer Maria Rilke. The implications, interpretations, and sentiments involved in this work are thus all laid out very clearly, an aesthetic act that some listeners find equivalent to having their mouths packed with wet cement.
The jazz orchestra behind it all is Russell's forte, sometimes squashing the chorus as flat as Indian fry bread. He uses the orchestra as if granted the use of a dozen arms with which to re-enact all of Buddy Rich's Newport Jazz Festival drum solos not just simultaneously but in vertical form, as the man says. Pinpointing these moments of enlightenment in the Russell discography is a challenge worth taking, although the listener's head by the end may feel like the results of all-night bar-hopping. Listening to Listen to the Silence is an experience everyone ought to have at least once, although by the end they may rue having entered this particular tavern.

The Esoteric Circle - 1973 - George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle

The Esoteric Circle
George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle

01. Traneflight 2:51
02. Rabalder 8:15
03. Esoteric Circle 5:22
04. Vips 5:40
05. Sas 644 8:49
06. Nefertite 2:05
07. Gee 1:10
08. Karin's Mode 7:30
09. Breeze Ending 3:39

Recorded in Oslo, Norway in 1969

Bass – Arild Anderson
Drums – Jon Christensen
Guitar – Terje Rypdal
Tenor Saxophone, Written-By – Jan Garbarek

With Norwegian music going through something of a renaissance, it’s fitting that George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle has reissued by BGP Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records. George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was one of the most important albums in Norwegian musical history. Released in 1971, George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle featured four pioneering jazz musicians. Sadly, George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was The Esoteric Circle’s only album.

The Esoteric Circle was founded in 1969 by bassist Arild Andersen, drummer Jon Christensen, guitarist Terje Rypdal and tenor and soprano saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The quartet met in Oslo, which in 1969, had a vibrant jazz scene.

Arild, Jon and Jan had grownup playing jazz. They had been members of various quartets. Terje hoever, was a relative newcomer to jazz. He only started playing in 1968. Previously, he’d played in rock bands. Stylistically, this was a whole new ball game. However, after a year playing jazz, he was hooked and became a member of The Esoteric Circle.

Jan Garbarek was fourteen when started to play tenor sax. He was a natural. A year later, he won first prize in the soloist category, for Norwegian Amateur jazz musicians. It seemed, Jan was destined to make a career out of music.

By 1965, Jan had his own group. They played at jazz festivals across Europe. This included Prague, Stockholm, Warsaw, Molde, Kronisberg and the prestigious, Montreux Jazz Festival. Jan also accompanied Karin Krog live and on record. During this period, Jan got the opportunity to study under a jazz legend, George Russell.

George Russell had made Oslo his home. Like many American jazz musicians, he made Europe his adopted home. That’s where he taught the Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organisation. Jan spent five years studying a theory that Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy pioneered. As well as studying with George Russell, Jan played in his sextet and big band. The other thing George Russell was responsible for, was bringing together The Esoteric Circle.

Terje Rypdal, Jon Christensen and Arild Andersen and Jan all met through George Russell. Guitarist Terje Rypdal originally played in rock bands. He was a member of Norway’s most popular pop group, The Vanguards. He then joined progressive rock and blues group Dream. By 1969, he was also a student at the Conservatory of Music.

A gifted student, Terje had just written, Eternal Circulation a symphony for an eighty-nine piece orchestra and and sixteen vocalists. He’d also played on George Russell’s Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature. This was just part of the Terje Rypdal story.

Having turned to jazz, Terje played at festivals across Europe. His background was similar to Jan. Terje played at Stockholm, Bologna, Molde and Kronisberg. Then at Badden Baden, Terje joined a group of pioneering jazz musicians, including John Surman, Roscoe Mitchell and Lester Bowie. They dipped their toe into the waters of free jazz. This wouldn’t be the last time.

Before Jon Christensen joined The Esoteric Circle, he’d been a session musician. He was the most sought after session drummer in Norway. Before long, his talents were in demand all over Scandinavia. Especially, among visiting American jazz musicians. They wanted Jon providing the heartbeat. There was more to Jon than a session musician.

Jon had been part of George Russell’s sextet and big band. He also was a member of the Steve Kuhn Trio, and played many jazz festivals. This included Bologna, Stockholm, Warsaw, Molde, Kronisberg and Montreux. Somehow, Jon also found time to play on two albums by Karin Krog. A talented and sought after musician, it’s no surprise, that Jon won the Buddy Award for Norwegian musician of the year in 1967. Two years later, another future member of The Esoteric Circle would win the Buddy Award.

This was bassist Arild Andersen. He’d played alongside Jon many times, including when visiting American jazz musicians arrived in Norway. Jon and Arild were part of Karin Krog’s. They also played at the same festivals, including Bologna, Stockholm, Molde and Kronisberg. However, Arild would play alongside another future member of  The Esoteric Circle.

Arild played alongside Jan Garbarek. Their paths crossed in the mid-sixties. That’s not surprising. The Oslo jazz scene was relatively small. On other occasions, Arild accompanied George Russell and in 1968, The Don Cherry Big Band. A year later, Arild won the Buddy Award for Norwegian musician of the year in 1969. This was an important year for Arild. It was the year The Esoteric Circle was founded.

Having founded The Esoteric Circle in 1969, they entered the Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter, recording studio in Oslo in October 1969. The rhythm section of bassist Arild Andersen, drummer Jon Christensen and guitarist Terje Rypdal were augmented by tenor and soprano saxophonist Jan Garbarek. George Russell produced George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle. It featured nine tracks. Seven were penned by Jan Garbarek. The other two, Nefertite and Breeze Ending were cover versions. These nine tracks, became  George Russell produced George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle. It wasn’t until 1971 that George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was released.

Two years passed before Bob Thiele released George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle on his Flying Dutchman Productions’ label. It was well received within jazz circles, and perceived as an important, ambitious, pioneering and genre-melting album. Sadly, it wasn’t a commercial success. As a result, George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was The Esoteric Circle’s only album. However, what a musical legacy it is.

The sultriest of saxophone and wistful, dramatic guitar combine on Traneflight, which opens George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle. Percussion plays, as the rhythm section slowly join in. All the time, the music is tinged with sadness, melancholia and drama. Jazz’s past, present and future combines. Happily, the old and the innovative sit side-by-side on this beautiful, wistful track that’s designed to tug at your heartstrings.

Drums roll and pound on Rabalder. It’s as if drummer Jon Christensen is setting the scene for the rest of The Esoteric Circle. He showcases his considerable skills, making his way round the kit. His playing is flawless, as he showboats his way round his kit, showing why he was one of the best drummers in Scandinavia. Eventually, the rest of The Esoteric Circle enters. A braying, howling horn, chiming guitar and subtle bass combine. It’s the frenzied saxophone and drums that take centre-stage. The rest of The Esoteric Circle are almost playing supporting role. Again, the track heads in the direction of free jazz. Later, a searing guitar is unleashed, as if if The Esoteric Circle are drawing inspiration from John McLaughlin. Rock meets free jazz and jazz, on a truly groundbreaking track.

Just a bass and subtle cymbal open Esoteric Circle. When, The Esoteric Circle enter, they sound like a band from jazz’s golden age. They play within themselves, producing a late night, smoky sound. Partly, that’s down to the saxophone. Sometimes, it’s akin to a cathartic outpouring of hurt. All the time, the arrangement marches to the tune of Arild Andersen bass. He and drummer Jon Christensen anchor a track where jazz’s past and present combine seamlessly, producing a laid-back slice of jazz.

Thoughtfully, and pensively Vibs, unfolds. Just the bass plays. Soon, the drums join. Eventually, a scrabbling saxophone enters. It injects a sense of urgency. So does the driving, dramatic guitar. Again, there’s a nod to John McLaughlin, in the way jazz and rock are combined by guitarist Terje Rypdal. The rest of The Esoteric Circle combine avant-garde, jazz, experimental and free jazz. It’s a compelling fusion of influences, that was way ahead of its time. So much so, it’s hard to believe that such a groundbreaking track as Vibs, was recorded in 1969.

Sas 644 is an eight minute epic. This allows The Esoteric Circle to explore the track’s nuances and subtleties. The rhythm section of bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen combine. Jon works his way round the kit, and with Arild Andersen’s bass, drive the arrangement along. Soon, Jan Garbarek’s saxophone and Terje Rypdal’s choppy guitar licks enter, adding urgency and drama. That’s not all. They signal The Esoteric Circle to cut loose. Terje uses a myriad of pedals and effects, mangling the sound. His guitar wah-wahs and wails, as The Esoteric Circle veer between fusion and free jazz. Jan seems to be inspired by Terje. He makes his saxophone howl and wail. Other times it brays and blazes. Later, the rhythm section accompany Jan’s allowing him to take centre-stage, but sometimes, showcasing their considerable talents.

Just a hauntingly beautiful saxophone solo and deliberately strummed guitar combine on Nefertite. Occasionally, the bass wails and a cymbal crashes. Mostly the music is hauntingly beautiful, and a tantalising taste of what The Esoteric Circle are capable of.

Gee is best described as an ambitious melange of avant-garde, experimental and free jazz. It veers between ambitious, challenging, discordant and innovative.

A thoughtful, mesmeric bass gets into a groove on Karin’s Mode. Gradually, distant drums, a subtle, braying saxophone and wailing guitar combine. Terje unleashes his array of pedals and effects. The result is futuristic and funky. Not to be outdone, saxophonist Jan Garbarek makes his saxophone bray, blaze and wail. It’s as if The Esoteric Circle are improvising. They encourage each other to experiment and push musical boundaries. The status quo isn’t an option, as they unleash a groundbreaking, futuristic, eight minute epic that forty-five years after it was recorded, is truly mesmeric.

Closing George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle is Breeze Ending . Just a lone  saxophone skips across the arrangement. It’s very much a showcase for saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The rest of The Esoteric Circle only make an appearance after two minutes. Drummer Jon Christensen and bassist Arild Andersen, combine. Then guitarist Terje Rypdal enters, and the track takes on a much more uplifting sound, and is a joyful, hopeful way to close George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle.

Two years the recording of George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle in Norway, in 1969, it was eventually released on Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions in 1971. At last, The Esoteric Circle’s one and only album was heard by a wider audience.

When George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was released, it was well received by critics. They hailed it one of the most important album in European jazz history. Sadly, this critical acclaim didn’t translated into sales. George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle wasn’t a commercial success. The problem was, here was an album that was way ahead of its time.

Listening back to George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle, it could easily be an album that the latest generation of Norwegian jazz musicians could’ve released. Norwegian music, including jazz, is enjoying another golden age. So much good music is coming out of Norway. That was the case back in 1969, when George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was recorded. By 1971, Norwegian music was still thriving. Fast forward forty-three years, and George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle is an album that has obviously influenced a new generation of Norwegian jazz musicians.

Without George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle, the latest generation of Norwegian jazz musicians may not have had the courage to innovate, and create bold, ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting music. Thankfully, they do. That in part, is down to five men, George Russell and The Esoteric Circle.

They played their part in an important, innovative and groundbreaking album George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle, which was recently released by BGP Records, an imprint of Ace Records.

George Russell - 1972 - Living Time

Bill Evans & George Russell 
Living Time

01. Event I 3:50
02. Event II 8:22
03. Event III 2:47
04. Event IV 5:30
05. Event V 11:52
06. Event VI 4:13
07. Event VII 2:07
08. Event VIII 5:38

Acoustic Bass – Eddie Gomez
Bass [Fender] – Herb Bushler (tracks: A4, B2, B4), Ron Carter (tracks: B1, B3), Stanley Clarke (tracks: A1 to A3)
Bass Guitar, Electric Guitar – Sam Brown
Conductor, Arranged By, Composed By – George Russell
Drums – Tony Williams, Marty Morell
Electric Piano, Keyboards – Teddy Saunders
Flugelhorn, Tuba, Bass Clarinet – Howard Johnson
French Horn – John Clark
Organ, Electric Piano – Webster Lewis
Percussion – Marc Belair
Piano [Steinway], Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Bill Evans
Tenor Saxophone – Joe Henderson
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet – Jimmy Giuffre
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Oboe – Sam Rivers
Trombone – Dave Baker*, Garnett Brown
Trombone, Tuba – Dave Bargeron
Trumpet – Stanton Davis
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ernie Royal, Snooky Young*, Richard Williams

Recorded at Columbia's 30th Street Studio, New York
Title "Living Time" from book by maurice Nicoll
Recorded in Columbia Studios, NYC, middle May, 1972

George Russell: Living Time

a. First version (1972) – Bill Evans, p & elec p; “George Russell Orchestra,” a handpicked ensemble of New York-based musicians, including Stanton Davis & Richard Williams, tp; David Baker & Garnett Brown, tb; Jimmy Giuffre, cl; Sam Rivers & Joe Henderson, ts; Webster Lewis, org; Sam Brown, g; Eddie Gomez, b; Stanley Clarke & Ron Carter, e-b; Tony Williams & Marty Morell, dm; Marc Belair, per; Russell, cond [Rec. 1972, New York City; Columbia LP, 1972; Japanese Sony CD, 2010]

b. Second version (1995, adding full string section, supplemental brass, winds, and percussion, orchestrated by Pat Hollenbeck) – Living Time Orchestra (incl. Stuart Brooks, Stanton Davis, Tiger Okoshi, tp; Dave Bargeron, tb; Richard Henry, bass tb; Chris Biscoe, as; Andy Sheppard, ts, ss; Pete Hurt, bcl / ts / bari; Mike Walker, g; Brad Hatfield & Steve Lodder, kb; Bill Urmson, e-b; Billy Ward, dm; Pat Hollenbeck, per); with Paul-Christian Staicu, p; Cécile Daroux, fl; tuba, Frh, additional tp, additional tb, additional per, additional ts, 15 string players (Régis Huby, cmstr) drawn from Conservatoire national supérieure de musique et de danse de Paris, Conservatoire d’Aubervilliers, Conservatoire de Montreuil, & Orchestre de Picardie; George Russell, cond [Rec. 1995, Paris; Label Bleu CD, 1995]

The piece is divided into “events” rather than movements, in keeping with Russell’s vertical form concept. The music is not intended to flow from point A to point B but rather to create a series of impressions that make a whole when they all have been explored.

Length of 1972 version: c. 37 minutes

The CD reissue of the 1972 “Living Time” offers much detail that couldn’t be heard on the LP version. The pianissimo sections are particularly helped, and now seem much more than just atmosphere. My first impressions of the piece back in the 1970s were of how varied and diverse it seemed; now I hear how carefully knit together it is, how thematic material appears and reappears, and how sensitive Bill Evans is to every ebb and flow in the music. In this listening, I was also struck by the beads-on-tuned-drums in Event I, an effect that George used in “Jazz in the Space Age,” where he played the percussion part himself. It sounds so much like the older performance that I wonder if George actually is playing the part himself. If so, this would represent his last recording as a performer. If not, Marc Belair gets the effect just right.


Event I – Jimmy Giuffre, cl; George Russell or Marc Belair, beads on tuned drums

Event II – Bill Evans, e-p / p; Eddie Gomez, b; Stanley Clarke, e-b; Sam Rivers, ts

Event III – Bill Evans, p; Stanton Davis, tp; Ted Saunders, clav; Webster Lewis, e-p; Marc Belair, gong & tymp

Event IV – Bill Evans, p; Webster Lewis, org

Event V – Bill Evans, p / e-p; Jimmy Giuffre, cl; Sam Rivers, fl; Webster Lewis, org; Eddie Gomez, b (arco solo); Dave Baker & Garnett Brown, tb; Richard Williams?, tp (solo in mute); Ron Carter, e-b; Joe Henderson, ts

Event VI – Bill Evans, p; Stanton Davis, tp

Event VII – Bill Evans, p; Ted Saunders, clav; Tony Williams & Marty Morell, dm (there are two trap kits; Morell plays straight time and Williams improvises freely)

Event VIII – Jimmy Giuffre, Sam Rivers, Joe Henderson, ts; Tony Williams, dm

Length of 1995 version: c. 48 min

We can assume that the 1995 mix, supervised by Russell, is how he wanted the piece to sound. It is much more expansive (less compressed, I suspect) than the Columbia version, which was produced by Helen Keane. This helps especially in the denser sections.

As for the music itself, the last three Events are slightly expanded, and the changes are particularly noticeable in the last Event.

Also, there are new parts throughout for 15 strings and 6 additional winds, horns and percussion, played by conservatory players from four different French orchestras. These parts are orchestrated by Pat Hollenbeck, according to the notes, but I suspect that Pat had something to do with the composition as well. Pat became one of the pillars of Russell’s music, from the mid-1990s until his death. The way he integrates the additional instruments here is masterful. They add wonderful richness to the pianissimo sections.

Classical flutist Cécile Daroux has a beautiful spot in Event I, where Jimmy Giuffre had a clarinet feature in the original.

All the original Bill Evans solo spots for acoustic piano are taken by Paul-Christian Staicu, except one (Steve Lodder plays the part in Event IV). Staicu is a classically-trained pianist from the Conservatoire national supérieure de musique et de danse de Paris, and he gets Bill’s parts right without imitating him, which is saying something. The electric keyboard parts that Bill originally played are given to Brad Hatfield.

One thing about Staicu’s playing that I prefer to Evans’s – his heartbreakingly beautiful interpretation of the principal theme in Event VIII, which I think is an expansion by Russell on the original score. Here Staicu’s classical training and touch is shown off to great advantage – and his strong statement at the start really makes the last Event cohere brilliantly. For me, this Event has a much greater impact than it did in the first recording.

Event I – Cécile Daroux, fl; Pat Hollenbeck, mar

Event II – Paul-Christian Staicu, p; Brad Hatfield, e-p; Andy Sheppard, ts

Event III – Paul-Christian Staicu, p

Event IV – Brad Hatfield, org; Steve Lodder, p; Andy Sheppard, ts; Stanton Davis, tp

Event V – Paul-Christian Staicu, p; Brad Hatfield, e-p; Stanton Davis, tp;
Dave Bargeron, tb (solo played w. plunger; breaks played open); Mike Walker, g;Andy Sheppard, ss; Bill Urmson, e-b

Event VI – Paul-Christian Staicu, p; Stanton Davis, tp; Mike Walker, g

Event VII – Paul-Christian Staicu, p; Billy Ward, dm

Event VIII – Paul-Christian Staicu, p; Andy Sheppard, ts

This may not be regarded as an "essential" item in George Russell's discography. But certainly it's an essential album in my George Russell collection. Actually, I consider the unexpected pairing of Russell and Bill Evans on "Living Time" (recorded at Columbia's 30th Street in NY, in May 1972) as one of the most stunning, provocative, intriguing, challenging and adventurous collaborations in jazz history. Period.
For those who are not familiar with this album, I must say "purists beware!" But even the most traditional Evans' fans shall listen to it, at least to be shocked. It's really a transcendental experience.
Evan's trio (with Bill on both acoustic & electric Fender Rhodes pianos, Eddie Gomez on acoustic bass and Marty Morell on drums) is augmented by a larger "rhythm section" featuring drummer Tony Williams, percussionist Marc Belair, keyboardists Webster Lewis (organ & Rhodes) & Ted Saunders (clavinet & Rhodes), guitarist Sam Brown, and nothing less than three bassists, all playing the Fender electric bass: Ron Carter (yesssss!), Stanley Clarke & Herb Bushler, each one playing in a different movement.
Among the members of the orchestra are Joe Henderson, Jimmy Giufree, Sam Rivers, Howard Johnson, Snooky Young, Garnett Brown and Ernie Royal.
To give you a small idea of this jazz adventure - composed, arranged & conducted by George Russell at Bill's request -, all I can say is that "Living Time" (a suite?) is divided into eight "events" (movements), "but it is clearly a single unified work," like Orrin Keepnews wrote in the original LP liner notes.
(My personal favorite "track" is "Event V", on which the two jazz geniuses achieve the complete fusion of their styles and the work reaches its climax.)
Orrin also explains Russell's "cycles" concept: "A cycle leader (or even the entire cycle) solos for a period determined not by a set number of bars but by 'clock time' - either a predetermined number of seconds or what the composer/conductor feels is 'right'..."
"It's as if I were creating an improvised sculpture," Russell added. In other words: it's beyond words.
I was lucky to get my CD copy during one of my several trips to Japan in the 90s, since it's a big shame that Sony never reissued it domestically in the USA.

George Russell - 1971 - The Essence Of George Russell

George Russell 
The Essence Of George Russell

01. Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature (Part I) 15:48
02. Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature (Part II) 17:03
03. Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature (Part III) 27:45
04. Now And Then 14:07

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet – Arne Domnérus (tracks: A to C)
Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Erik Nilsson (tracks: A to C)
Bass – Arild Andersen, Georg Riedel
Congas – Sabu Martinez (tracks: A to C)
Drums – Egil Johansen (tracks: A to C), Jon Christensen (tracks: A to C)
Electric Guitar – Terje Rypdahl (tracks: A to C)
Guitar – Rune Gustafsson (tracks: A to C)
Piano – Bengt Hallberg (tracks: A to C)
Piano, Conductor – George Russell (tracks: A to C)
Producer – George Russell
Tenor Saxophone – Jan Garbarek (tracks: A to C)
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone – Claes Rosendahl (tracks: A to C)
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Lennart Åberg (tracks: A to C)
Trombone [Bass] – Olle Lind (tracks: A to C)
Trumpet – Bertil Lövgren (tracks: A to C), Jan Allan (tracks: A to C), Lars Samuelsson (tracks: A to C), Maffy Falay (tracks: A to C)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Stanton Davis (tracks: A to C)
Vibraphone, Xylophone – Berndt Egerbladh (tracks: A to C)

Alto Saxophone – Christer Boustedt, Claes Rosendahl
Baritone Saxophone – Erik Nilsson
Bass – Roman Dylag
Congas – Rupert Clemendore
Drums – Jon Christensen
Electric Guitar – Rune Gustafsson
Piano – George Russell
Tenor Saxophone – Bernt Rosengren, Jan Garbarek
Trombone – Georg Vernon, Gunnar Medberg
Trombone [Bass] – Runo Ericksson
Trumpet – Bertil Lövgren, Jan Allan, Palle Boldtvig, Palle Mikkelborg

Originally issued on the Norwegian Sonet label in 1971 and later re-released on Soul Note (without "Concerto for Self-Accompanied Guitar"), The Essence Of... contained George Russell's first large-scale work to incorporate electronic elements from contemporary classical music as well as an emerging influence of modern rock. "Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature" is a massive work in which a jazz big band made up of many of the period's finest Scandinavian musicians serves as the backing orchestra for the very youthful Jan Garbarek quartet with guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Arild Andersen, and drummer Jon Christensen. A fairly abstract tape made up of moody, organy sounds is generally running in the background, sometimes predominating when the orchestra subsides. Otherwise, the composition progresses from theme to theme, many of them propulsive and groove-oriented, serving as platforms for improvisations from the featured players. Listeners who only know Garbarek from his later, substantially more placid work for ECM may be taken aback at the ferocity and swagger on display here, his roots in Albert Ayler very apparent. Rypdal and American trumpeter Stanton Davis are also shown to good effect, the former taking several blistering solos comparable to Sonny Sharrock's work from around the same time. If there's a problem, it's that Russell's attempts at a prescient kind of jazz-rock hybrid sometimes result in melodies that plod a little instead of dance, a common fate among jazz composers who never quite grasped what made rock so exciting in the mid-'60s. Additionally, the work (here heard in a live performance) is really a string of themes and not so much an organic whole, but these quibbles aside, it still stands up as a striking and forward-looking composition. "Concerto for Self-Accompanied Guitar," here performed by Rene Gustafsson overdubbing himself, is a lovely work, with hints of Gaelic folk music in an odd combination with Russell's patented Lydian mode jazz. "Now and Then," recorded a couple of years prior to the other pieces, is more along the lines of Russell's previous work, especially as heard on his At Beethoven Hall [Live] recording: good, rambunctious big band jazz. On the whole, highly recommended.

George Russell - 1971 - Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature

George Russell
Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature

01. Part One 26:03
02. Part Two 26:30

George Russell-piano
Jan Garbarek-tenor sax
Manfred Schoof-trumpet
Terje Rypdal-electric guitar
Jon Christensen-drums
Red Mitchell-drums

Recorded live at the Sonja Henie/Niels Onstad Center For The Arts, on April 28th, 1969, at Høvikodden, near Oslo, Norway.

The electronic tapes was composed in the Electronic Music Studios (EMS) of the Swedish Radio in Stockholm.

The tapes of African vocals and lute was recorded by Cal Floyd in 1967 in Nile headquarters region of North Uganda.

Composer, theorist, arranger, and pianist George Russell debuted his 14-part master composition "Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved By Nature" on April 28, 1969, at a concert in Norway. The ambitious, elaborate work blended bebop, free, Asian, and blues elements, as well as electronic effects, and mixed live performance with tape and vocal segments. It was a testimony to the prowess of trumpeter Manfred Schoof, tenor saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Red Mitchell, and drummer John Christensen that they weren't overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the experience. The digital mastering enables listeners to fully hear the disparate styles converging, and understand just how advanced Russell's concepts were, particularly for the time. While not everything worked, the composition ranks alongside Ornette Coleman's "Free Jazz" as one of jazz's finest, most adventurous pieces.

I was first introduced to the music of George Russell in the early 90's via his excellent early 60's albums "Stratus Seekers" & "Ezz Thetics." Russell's music of that era reminded me a great deal of artists such as Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor & Thelonious Monk. Later in the decade I was working in a used record shop when this album "Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature" walked through the door. Noticing that it was on the ultra cool Flying Dutchman label I put it aside so I could listen to it before putting it in the racks. I was really quite astounded by the record after giving it several spins. To be honest I really wasn't prepared for a George Russell album sounding like this, while many of Russell's early works leaned toward the progressive side of jazz, this album was in the same territory as Sun Ra at his wildest.

For this recording Russell assembled a group consisting largely of Scandinavian musicians which included hot-shot Norwegian electric guitarist Terje Rypdal. In some ways you can compare Russell's approach to this album to Soft Machine's "Third" album & The Grateful Dead's "Anthem Of The Sun" in that it blended studio recordings with live tapes thus creating an a truly "out there" listening experience. "Electric Sonata.." is basically one mammoth piece spread over both sides of an LP, both sides clocking in at 25 minutes+. A couple of reference points for this recording would be John Coltrane's "Ascension" album and Ornette Coleman's "Free Jazz" LP.

Oddly enough for most of this recording Russell takes a back-seat and lets his band have the limelight, for the most part Russell plays 2 or 3 simple chords throughout the entire piece, bringing to mind the repeated "number 9" from The Beatles "Revolution #9." Musically the piece ebbs and flows creating a cohesive but disorienting listening experience. At times Garbarek & Schoof spar with each other while Russell hammers away at the basic theme of the piece. Sometimes the piece is unified at other times it breaks down into chaos. Rypdal periodically appears to lend his distorted electric guitar phrases to the mix ala Ash Ra Tempel, then he completely disappears. Side 2 begins with a field recording of primitive African music from Uganda recorded in 1967 that is blended into the main piece with aid from Rypdal's menacing guitar. Towards the end of side two the whole recording fades into blank space which reminds me of the second side of the first Matching Mole album. Sadly my copy skips with about a minute to go & I have had no luck finding a reasonably priced second copy. I think the album was out shortly on CD, but the cheapest one I have seen is close to $50.

Russell should be given high marks for stepping outside the box and trying something radically new within the jazz idiom, I would say he was very successful at blending rock, jazz and Africa styles into a whole new bag. "Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature" is a highly ambitious recording that has a style all it's own. Though it was recorded in 1969, it wouldn't see release until 1971. A second part to this piece was released in 1980,

George Russell - 1970 - Othello Ballet Suite Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1

George Russell 
Othello Ballet Suite  Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1

01. Othello Ballet Suite (Part I) 17:45
02. Othello Ballet Suite (Part II) 11:30
03. Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1 14:00

Alto Saxophone – Arne Domnerus
Drums – Jon Christensen
Orchestra – The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Tenor Saxophone – Bernt Rosengren, Jan Garbarek
Trumpet – Rolf Eriksson
Organ [Church Organ] – George Russell

Othello was recorded November 3/4, 1967 at the studios of Radio Sweden in Stockholm.
The basic material for Electronic Organ Sonata was recorded October 1, 1968 on the grand church organ of Grorud Church, Oslo.
Technical work and final assemblage was performed in the electronic music studios of Radio Sweden.

George Russell's stepping quite far out from his earlier work here – recording in Scandinavia in the late 60s, with some very trippy effects! The album is dominated by the two-part "Othello Ballet Suite" – recorded in Stockholm in 1967 with a group that includes Rolf Ericksson on trumpet, Bertn Rosengren on tenor, and Arne Domnerus on alto – and the sound is a mixture of relatively free and out playing, with a few passages that snap into more of a swinging approach. The "Electronic Organ Sonata No 1" was recorded in Oslo in 1968, and features Russell improvising on the organ of a church. It's a very strange number – but one with a wonderful otherworldly feel!

George Russell - 1965 - At Beethoven Hall

George Russell
At Beethoven Hall

101. Freein' Up 12:44
102. Lydia And Her Friends 6:53
103. Lydia In Bags Groove 5:22
104. Lydia's Confirmation 7:03
105. Lydia Round Midnight 3:43
106. Takin' Lydia Home 2:05

201. You Are My Sunshine 10:40
202. Oh Jazz, Po Jazz 5:38
203. Oh Jazz, Po Jazz (Continued) 5:51
204. Volupte 12:09

Bass – Cameron Brown
Drums – Al Heath
Piano – George Russell
Tenor Saxophone – Ray Pitts
Trombone – Brian Trentham
Trumpet – Bertil Löfgren, Don Cherry

Recorded August 31st, 1965 at Beethoven Hall Stuttgart.

A great composer, and perhaps the godfather of the jazz avant garde this cd comprised of two lps released indepent of each other in th 60'S is a delight and a must for any serous minded jazz collector. The music is mosly high energy improvising within standard song struture and it features Don Cherry. A major part of the CD focus's on Russells "Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization" with Russell versions of Monks "Round Midnight" and Parkers "Confirmation". Two of the ten tracks "Oh Jazz,po jazz" and "Volupte" exist altoghether outside of song structure and are fine examples of tonal jazz. Overall a fine recording and one that desreves a closer look.

George Russell - 1962 - The Outer View

George Russell  
The Outer View

01. Au Privave 6:21
02. Zig-Zag 4:03
03. The Outer View 10:03
04. You Are My Sunshine 12:04
05. D.C. Divertimento 9:14

Bass – Steve Swallow
Drums – Pete La Roca
Engineer [Recording] – Ray Fowler
Piano – George Russell
Tenor Saxophone – Paul Plummer
Trombone – Garnett Brown
Trumpet – Don Ellis

Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City; August 27, 1962.

Composer George Russell's early-'60s Riverside recordings are among his most accessible. For this set (the CD reissue adds an alternate take of the title cut to the original program), Russell and his very impressive sextet (which is comprised of trumpeter Don Ellis, trombonist Garnett Brown, Paul Plummer on tenor, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Pete La Roca) are challenged by the complex material; even Charlie Parker's blues "Au Privave" is transformed into something new. It is particularly interesting to hear Don Ellis this early in his career. The most famous selection, a very haunting version of "You Are My Sunshine," was singer Sheila Jordan's debut on records.

This recording is the last George Russell made for the Riverside label before relocating to Europe. It thus marks something of a break in his career: in later work he was to delve into electronics & jazz-rock, but this album rounds off the series of exploratory small-group sessions he cut for the label, each featuring an exciting mixture of hot soloists & sophisticated arrangements.
The album opens with a polytonal arrangement of Parker's "Au Privave"; this was a favourite strategy (cf. "Sippin' at Bells" on the _Live at the Five Spot_ disc), & is an extension of the bebop practice of the unison statement of heads. (Such a polytonal approach is audible even in some non-avantgarde recordings: listen to "Bag's Groove" on Milt Jackson's _Opus de Jazz_, or "Children of the Night" on Art Blakey's _Mosaic_.) As on "Honesty" on Russell's _Ezz-thetics_ or "The Outer View" on this disc, the soloists' slots are split between a free-time section and a straightahead swing section. The horns--the fine Don Ellis on trumpet, and the lesser-known Garnett Brown (trombone) and Paul Plummer (saxophone)--all find something interesting to say.
There's another short piece--Carla Bley's charming "Zig-Zag"--& then three long set-pieces. "The Outer View" is more-or-less of a piece with the first two (& is accompanied by a welcome alternate take): it has some of the most exciting playing on the date. "You Are My Sunshine" & "D.C. Divertimento" are more arranged, indeed through-composed; "Sunshine" is the stand-out, & the album's most famous track, climaxing on the young Sheila Jordan's bluesy & bold rendition of the lyric. It's a powerful performance, & is the main reason to get this album.
Aside from "Sunshine" this is not quite among the first rank of Russell albums--I'd name _Jazz in the Space Age_, the Jazz Workshop disc & _Ezz-Thetics_ as his best, perhaps, along with "Lydian M-1" on the Teddy Charles Tentet disc & "All About Rosie" on _The Birth of the Third Stream_. But it's nonetheless worth getting, primarily for "You Are My Sunshine".