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George Russell Sextet at the Five Spot

George Russell Sextet

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Album Review

This limited-edition CD reissue covers six tracks recorded in the studio (since they obviously omit any of the background noise, and the usual out-of-tune piano heard on live dates recorded at the long defunct New York City nightclub is missing). The band includes trumpeter Al Kiger, trombonist David Baker, tenor saxophonist Dave Young, bassist Chuck Israels, and drummer Joe Hunt, along with Russell's sparse piano. Things kick off with a driving take of Miles Davis' "Sippin' at Bells," which features great interaction among the horns. Carla Bley's "Dance Class" is choppy, dissonant, and very humorous; she also wrote "Beast Blues," which features Kiger's muted horn, an energetic solo by Young, and a very understated solo by Baker. Baker contributed "121 Bank Street," a roller coaster post-bop vehicle. John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice," which had only been recorded three years earlier by its composer, is re-scored with a very spacious Russell arrangement that provides minimal accompaniment for the soloists. Unlike many of Russell's releases, this one has only one of his originals, "Swingdom Come," with a jagged angular theme that defies predictable paths. Although Russell plays more of a composer/arranger style of piano, his very challenging arrangements are very attractive. Anyone who enjoys his releases for RCA, Riverside, and Decca from around this period in his career should definitely acquire this sure-to-be-collectable CD.

Biography

Born: June 23, 1923 in Cincinnati, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

While George Russell was very active as a free-thinking composer, arranger, and bandleader, his biggest effect upon jazz was in the quieter role of theorist. His great contribution, apparently the first by a jazz musician to general music theory, was a book with the intimidating title The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, where he concocted a concept of playing jazz based on scales rather than chord changes. Published in 1953, Russell's theories directly paved the way for the modal...
Full Bio

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