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George Russell - 'Ezz-thetics'
George Russell - 'Ezz-thetics'
In addition to being very active as a free-thinking composer, arranger and bandleader, George Russellís biggest effect upon Jazz has been that of the quieter role of theorist. His great contribution, apparently the first by a Jazz musician to general music theory, was his "Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization." Published in 1953, Russell's theories directly 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. Like his colleague Gil Evans, Russell has never stopped growing. In this edition, George Lane revisits one of Russell's most influential recordings, "Ezz-thetics."

Genius is a term that is used much too casually, but in George Russellís case, itís simply not strong enough. A long-standing member of the Jazz pantheon, George at 77 years old is still doing that to which he has dedicated his life - teaching, creating magnificent music and continuing to refine and expand his profound and vitally important Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization.

Highly influential upon artists ranging from Miles and Coltrane to Ornette Coleman and Toru Takemitsu to Quincy Jones and Yo Yo Ma, and the recipient of numerous major international and American awards, George has been tragically ignored by American record companies, festivals and presenters for the past 35 years!

"Ezz-thetics" was one of four extraordinary sextet/septet recordings he did for Riverside between 1960-62, and arguably the best, if only for the presence of the incredible Eric Dolphy on alto sax and bass clarinet. Experimental trumpeter Don Ellis and trombonist David Baker round out the excellent front line, which deftly handles the challenging arrangements with great style and panache.

Russellís unique arrangements are richly textured, harmonically adventurous and beautifully musical, whether on his originals like "Ezz-thetic," "Lydiot" and "Thoughts," or on Milesí evocative "Nardis" and Monkís gorgeous "ĎRound Midnight." The latter features spectacular alto work from Dolphy, as does Bakerís "Honesty," a solid blues piece of interesting rhythmic structure.

Dolphy also provides astounding bass clarinet work on "Thoughts" and especially "Nardis," an ideal composition for the dark, vibrant sound of the instrument on which nobody even vaguely approaches his mastery.

Ellisí sputtering, crackling trumpet and Bakerís articulate and often rapid-fire trombone solos are also remarkable. Russellís unique piano textures and solid work by bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joe Hunt provide excellent support, fluidly handling the challenging rhythms and harmonics.

Although George Russellís true "instrument" is his Orchestra (his Living Time Orchestra is making some of the best music on the planet these days), all of his small group recordings are wonderful, and this one is a must.

Buy George Russell's CDs here

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