[JPL] Geroge Russell R.I.P.

Jae Sinnett jaejazz at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 28 00:18:53 EDT 2009

Wow Larry. Sorry to hear this news. Russell was HUGE in the jazz education/musician communities. His Lydian concepts reshaped the music. He started as a drummer and no telling where his drumming would have gone had it not been for his illness. His LONG stint in the hospital ironically gave him the time to set the foundation for his very innovative harmonic variations. He was a giant that few outside of jazz education/musician circles really knew much about. 

Jae Sinnett

--- On Mon, 7/27/09, Larry Appelbaum <jumpmonk at hotmail.com> wrote:

> From: Larry Appelbaum <jumpmonk at hotmail.com>
> Subject: [JPL] Geroge Russell R.I.P.
> To: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
> Date: Monday, July 27, 2009, 11:38 PM
> This week's sponsor: JazzWeek Summit
> 2010, http://summit.jazzweek.com/
> *******************************************************
> Contact:  Sue Auclair, 617-522-1394
> jazzwoman at earthlink.net
> For Immediate Release:
> Composer, theoretician, pianist George Russell passed away
> this
> evening, July 27, 2009 at approximately 9:10 pm from
> complications due
> to Alzheimer’s.  He leaves his wife Alice Russell,
> his son Jock
> Millgardh and three grandchildren, Maya, Kalle and
> Max.  
> There will be no funeral, but a memorial service will be
> planned in the future.
> Bio information:
> George Russell was a hugely influential, innovative figure
> in the
> evolution of modern jazz, the music's only major theorist,
> one of its
> most profound composers, and a trail blazer whose ideas
> have
> transformed and inspired some of the greatest musicians of
> our time.
> Russell was born in Cincinnati in 1923, the adopted son of
> a
> registered nurse and a chef on the B&O Railroad. He
> began playing
> drums with the Boy Scout Drum and Bugle Corps and
> eventually received a
> scholarship to Wilberforce University where he joined the
> Collegians,
> whose list of alumni include Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter,
> Fletcher
> Henderson, Ben Webster, Cootie Williams, Ernie Wilkins and
> Frank
> Foster. But his most valuable musical education came in
> 1941, when, in
> attempting to enlist in the Marines, he was diagnosed with
> tuberculosis, spending 6 months in the hospital where he
> was taught the
> fundamentals of harmony from a fellow patient. From the
> hospital he
> sold his first work, "New World," to Benny Carter. He
> joined Benny
> Carter's Band, but was replaced by Max Roach; after Russell
> heard
> Roach, he decided to give up drumming. He moved to New York
> where he
> was part of a group of musicians who gathered in the
> basement apartment
> of Gil Evans. The circle included Miles Davis, Gerry
> Mulligan, Max
> Roach, Johnny Carisi and on occasion, Charlie Parker. He
> was
> commissioned to write a piece for Dizzy Gillespie's
> orchestra; the
> result was the seminal "Cubano Be/Cubano Bop" the first
> fusion of
> Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz, premiered at Carnegie Hall in
> 1947 and
> featuring Chano Pozo. Two years later his "Bird in Igor's
> Yard" was
> recorded by Buddy DeFranco, a piece notable for its fusion
> of elements
> from Charlie Parker and Stravinsky.
> It was a remark made by Miles Davis when George asked him
> his musical
> aim which set Russell on the course which has been his
> life. Miles said
> he "wanted to learn all the changes." Since Miles obviously
> knew all
> the changes, Russell surmised that what he meant was he
> wanted to learn
> a new way to relate to chords. This began a quest for
> Russell, and
> again hospitalized for 16 months, he began to develop his
> "Lydian
> Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization." First published
> in 1953, the
> Lydian Concept is credited with opening the way into modal
> music, as
> demonstrated by Miles in his seminal "Kind of Blue"
> recording. Using
> the Lydian Scale as the PRIMARY SCALE of Western music, the
> Lydian
> Chromatic Concept introduced the idea of chord/scale unity.
> It was the
> first theory to explore the vertical relationship between
> chords and
> scales, and was the only original theory to come from jazz.
> Throughout
> the 1950's and 60's, Russell continued to work on
> developing the
> Concept and leading bands under his direction. In the
> mid-fifties, a
> superb sextet, including Bill Evans and Art Farmer recorded
> under his
> direction, producing "The Jazz Workshop," an album of
> astonishing
> originality; the often dense textures and rhythms
> anticipated the
> jazz-rock movement of the 1970's. 
> During this time, he was also working odd jobs as a
> counterman in a
> lunch spot and selling toys at Macy's at Christmas; the
> release of “The
> Jazz Workshop” put an end to Russell’s jobs outside of
> music. He was
> one of a group to be commissioned to write for the first
> annual
> Brandeis Jazz Festival in 1957--"All About Rosie" was based
> on an
> Alabama children's song. "New York, New York," with poetry
> by Jon
> Hendricks and featuring Bill Evans, Max Roach, John
> Coltrane, Milt
> Hinton, Bob Brookmeyer, Art Farmer and a Who's Who of the
> New York jazz
> scene is striking in it evocation of the New York of the
> late fifties.
> >From 1960, Russell began leading his own sextets around
> the New York
> area and at festivals; he also toured throughout the
> Midwest and Europe
> with his sextet. One of the important albums of this time
> was
> "Ezz-Thetic," which featured Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis and
> Steve Swallow.
> Disillusioned by his lack of recognition and the meager
> work
> opportunities in America, he arrived in a wheel chair in
> Scandinavia in
> 1964, but returned five years later in spiritual health. In
> Sweden and
> Norway he found support for both himself and his music. All
> his works
> were recorded by radio and TV, and he was championed by
> Bosse Broberg,
> the adventurous Director of Swedish Radio, an organization
> with which
> Russell maintains a close association and admiration. While
> there, he
> heard and recorded a young Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, and
> Jon
> Christensen.
> In 1969, he returned to the States at the request of his
> old friend,
> Gunther Schuller to teach at the newly created Jazz
> Department at the
> New England Conservatory where Schuller was President. He
> continued to
> develop the Lydian Concept and toured with his own groups.
> He played
> Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, the Bottom Line,
> Newport,
> Wolftrap, The Smithsonian, Sweet Basil, the West Coast, the
> Southwest,
> and Europe with his 14 member orchestra. He continued to
> compose
> extended works which defined jazz composition. His 1985
> recording, "The
> African Game,"one of the first in the revived Blue Note
> label, received
> 2 Grammy nominations. Russell has taught throughout the
> world, and has
> been guest conductor for Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian,
> Danish, German
> and Italian radio.
> In 1986, he was invited by the Contemporary Music Network
> of the
> British Council to tour with an orchestra of American and
> British
> musicians, which resulted in The International Living Time
> Orchestra,
> which has been touring and performing since that time.
> Among the
> soloists of stature are Stanton Davis, Dave Bargeron, Brad
> Hatfield,
> Steve Lodder, Tiger Okoshi, and Andy Sheppard. The
> musicians have
> developed a rare understanding of the music, astonishing
> audiences with
> fiery music both complex and challenging, but added to the
> dynamism and
> electric power of funk and rock. Russell himself is a
> tremendously
> visual leader, dancing and forming architectural structures
> with his
> hands.
> The Living Time Orchestra has toured all over the world.
> Most recent
> projects included a performance at the Barbican Centre in
> London and
> the Cite de la Musique in Paris, augmented with string
> players from the
> U.K. and France, the Theatre Champs-Elyse¥es for the
> Festival D'automne
> in Paris, the Glasgow International Festival, Queen
> Elizabeth Hall,
> Tokyo Music Joy, the Library of Congress, Festivals of
> Umbria, Verona,
> Lisbon, Milano, Pori, Bath, Huddersfield, Ravenna, Catania,
> North Sea,
> and many more.
> Russell has received the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship,
> the National
> Endowment for the Arts American Jazz Master, been elected a
> Foreign
> Member of the Royal Swedish Academy, two Guggenheim
> Fellowships, the
> Oscar du Disque de Jazz, the Guardian Award, six NEA Music
> Fellowships,
> the American Music Award, and numerous others.
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