Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Living Time" was probably one of the first ten jazz albums I heard, I guess late '72? It was issued under Bill Evans' name, but even to my uneducated ears it was clear that it was really a George Russell recording. Russell, by then, was making use of rockish rhythms so it wasn't difficult music for me at the time, but it certainly sounded different from anything I'd heard. Within a few years, I'd read a bit about (but not understand) his Lydian Chromatic Theory--whatever, it gave his music a unique tinge.

Pretty quickly, via NMDS, I ordered his epic "Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature" and the "Othello Ballet Suite", the former soon becoming a big favorite of mine, among other things my initial exposure to Jan Garbarek and his circle of musicians, which led to me getting their early ECM output. A bit later I picked up the phenomenal "Live at Beethoven Hall" set with Don Cherry (probably my favorite work of his, all told) and other earlier records.

When I was in Boston in '74-'75 at the Museum School, Russell was teaching at the New England Conservatory so I was able to attend a couple of shows there--I think Stanton Davis was in his band then, probably others whose names I'd recognize today. My memories of the performances are vague but positive.

In all honesty, I didn't care at all for much of the later music of his I heard; I recall being particularly disappointed by "The African Game". But his work through at least the mid-70s is marvelous. Many's the time I've turned on KCR in the middle of a piece and, even if I'd never heard it before, there was no doubt it was George Russell.

Thanks for all the beautiful music, Mr. Russell.

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