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As Supporting Musician

George Russell: The 80th Birthday Concert

George Russell and the Living Time Orchestra

“A brain blasting, soul-cleansing expression of absolutely immediate and endlessly creative originality.” – Marty Khan.

Original Concert Review at Gurdian

George Russell is one of the great men of postwar modernism, a direct link to the time when everything – architecture, film, music, society – was being reinvented. Russell is the arch theorist of jazz who also wrote hits. He led adventurous bands while teaching and encouraging younger musicians. Over the past two decades his Living Time Orchestra has been one of the weird and wonderful treats of the festival circuit.

The Barbican gig included sprawling, complex scores from his repertoire: Dialogue With Ornette; Electric Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature; The African Game. Russell, now 80, still plays around with them. He’s prepared to end an intense, high energy passage with a long acoustic fade, rejecting the conventions of crowd-pleasing performance. He’ll jump cut from one mood to another, from saxophone cadenza to electronic soundscape; from dense harmony to stonking riffs. This is almost part of Russell’s style, an “anti-style” that emphasises substance over presentation.
His writing is so multifaceted and many-layered that you want to hear it again; as soon as you grasp it, he’s on to another level of intensity. And he knows how to make eight horns – including Dave Bargeron, Chris Biscoe and lead trumpeter Stuart Brooks – sound enormous. Yet there’s space for improvisation: trumpeter Stanton Davis plays impressive solos using plunger and Harmon mutes; the great, underrated Palle Mikkelborg summons up the spirit of Miles, prowling around the stage with his back to the audience. Keyboardists Brad Hatfield and Steve Lodder make a great team and Hiroaki Honshuku’s electronics add a touch of Forbidden Planet. The whole ensemble plays with spirit and dedication, letting rip on simpler numbers such as It’s About Time – a beautiful ballad that mutates into strutting rock-jazz – and the “swunk” of So What, a moving, triumphant tribute to Miles Davis.

Every big band should play a George Russell composition, or at least aspire to his adventurous spirit. Matthew Herbert, Jools Holland, Mark Anthony Turnage and Jazz Jamaica should listen next Friday night, when Radio 3 broadcasts the concert.

Additional CD Review at AllAboutJazz.com >>


Disc: 1

  1. Listen To The Silence
  2. Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved By Nature

Disc: 2

  1. The African Game
  2. It’s About Time
  3. So What
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