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The Hal Russell Story

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Album Review

Recorded two months after Hal's Bells, it was if Russell knew something and tried to get as much recording as possible done before he died. Sadly, he died a mere five weeks after recording this amazing record. Constructed as an aural autobiography, The Hal Russell Story combines a stream-of-consciousness narrative with some rock-solid jazzified blowing and dissonant free playing. The main body of the piece is made up of numerous short segments, some under a minute, but the ebb and flow of the songs is so smooth and effortless, you'll never realize that you're listening to so many short tracks. As usual, Russell's band the NRG ensemble kicks ass and takes names, blowing with so much intensity and power it's astonishing. Adding to this wonderful (if bittersweet) recording is the inclusion of a rollicking version of the Fleetwood Mac chestnut "Oh Well," which Russell claims he'd never heard before (and I believe him). It would be great if Hal Russell were still around serving up his wonderfully skewed jazz-rock, but this is as wonderful and fitting an epitaph as one could hope for.


Born: 1926 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Not quite a Fred Anderson-esque elder statesman, and never an AACM member, Hal Russell was nonetheless a crucial link between Chicago's fertile avant-garde jazz scene of the '60s and its renaissance in the '90s. Russell helped keep the flame burning during the '80s with his NRG Ensemble, a freewheeling outfit able to execute Russell's tight compositions while echoing his surreal, almost vaudevillian sense of humor. Born in Detroit on August 28, 1926, Russell began playing drums at age four, but majored...
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The Hal Russell Story, Hal Russell
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