[JPL] Eric Jackson/George Russell

Eric Jackson eric-jackson at comcast.net
Thu Jul 20 08:32:38 EDT 2006

On Wednesday 19 July 2006 17:10, Jae Sinnett wrote:

> Eric, it's interesting that you brought up George Russell. Three of my
> favorite jazz recordings are - "The Stratus Seekers" - "Ezz-thetics" and
> "Stratusphunk." Neither of which I've seen as a re-issue. That's not to say
> they haven't been but I haven't seen them. Russell could be put in that
> genius category. His Lydian Concepts help re-shape how musicians approached
> improvisation and writing. Sadly he suffered severe illness through most of
> his life and spent several months in a Bronx hospital in the 40's....this
> is important because it was during this stay he formulated his now
> innovative Lydian Chromatic concept.
>   It reads like a who's who of musicians that performed with his creative
> and thought provoking big band......Trane, Farmer, P. Woods, Evans, Max
> Roach, Al Cohn and many, many more. One of the things that always intrigued
> me about him was the fact that drums was his first instrument - not piano
> but piano became the focus later. In fact when he moved to NYC Bird wanted
> him to play in his group. It was interesting in that considering he was a

George told me in an interview that his first big gig in New York was playing 
drums in Benny Carter's band. He said that one day Benny came to him and said 
he wanted to try another drummer. George asked him who the drummer was. Benny 
replied "Max Roach" My memory may be wrong here but I seem to recall this as 
being about 1940.

> pianist he used Bill Evans. I think this was because Bill studied his
> concepts and could apply them to his music and Russell could focus on
> composition and directing. In some ways similar to how Ellington saw
> Strayhorn.
>   Even more importantly, some believe that Russell was the first to
> incorporate American Jazz with and Afro Cuban rhythms in a big band
> concept. Many credit Dizzy with this innovation but perhaps they were
> referring to the smaller ensembles and this work preceded Russell's
> "Cubano" Suite. If I remember correctly, "Cubano Be-Cubano Bop" was
> Russell's composition performed by Dizzy's band at Carnegie Hall in the mid
> to late forties.

Cubano Be-Cubano Bop is his composition. I think I remember Arturo or someone 
else posting some information showing that it wasn't the first to incorporate 
those rhythms into a big band. Arturo? Anyone else?

>   Personally I don't think history - outside of musicians circles - has
> been kind to him.

You are right. To many people being a successful musician is measured in the 
number of CDs you've sold. George wouldn't rank high on that list. But he is 
a man who helped to change jazz with his ideas. In addition, his concepts 
have certainly been used by non-jazz groups.

I love to see George conduct. He looks like he's dancing. Actually, I guess he 
is dancing!

Eric Jackson
8 pm - mid Mon - Thurs
WGBH Boston
89.7 FM

>   Jae Sinnett
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