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Hal's Bells

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Album Review

As it says in the liner notes to this recording, "He [Russell] looks like Charles Ives, sounds like Albert Ayler." A succinct and accurate summary of what you're in for on this, Russell's first solo record made at the age of 65. Although Russell died soon after recording this, there's no sense of desperation on this record; instead there is pure joy, the silly seriousness that Russell brought to all of his recordings. There's even a track (a good one no less) entitled "Kenny G," meant for the banal saxophonist of the same name. Granted, this is a little more abstract than other Russell recordings; in fact, it's very much a product of Ayler and Ornette-influenced free playing, but it has a firm rhythmic foot (Russell was primarily a drummer in the early part of his career) and, as out as it gets, never simply noodles off into the stratosphere.


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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Hal's Bells, Hal Russell
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