[JPL] George Russell R.I.P.

Eric Jackson eric-jackson at comcast.net
Tue Jul 28 09:15:18 EDT 2009

I think I interviewed George for the first time back in 1972 when I 
worked for WBCN. Through the years, I think I must have interviewed him 
at least a dozen times. I've always said that George Russell was the 
most challenging person I ever interviewed. And by that I don't mean 
that he was in any way unfriendly. No, he was always very warm. But he 
had a language that he used that in all my many interviews I never heard 
other musicians use unless they had been his students. I think I had to 
grow to interview him and I do think I got better at interviewing him as 
the years went by. I hope he thought so.

It was always a joy to see George, usually he was very warm and friendly 
with a great smile. And to see George conduct his band was also 
something special to watch. He moved, danced across the stage, cueing 
this section and then another while energetically directing the orchestra.

Through the years my father has often co-hosted my show with me. George 
would sometimes call to say hello to my father. And often when I talked 
to George he would ask about my father and tell me how much he enjoyed 
the show when my father was on.

I have done tributes to George on his birthday a number of times 
throughout the years. Sometimes he would call in to say he was 
listening. I remember once when I was doing one of my birthday tributes 
to him he called and sang Happy Birthday to himself.

Years ago I interviewed South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and 
bassist Jimmy Blanton's name came up in our conversation. I said that I 
thought that Blanton was one of the most important musicians in the 
history of American music and hardly any one knows who he is. Abdullah 
replied that Blanton was one of the most important musicians in the 
history of music in the world and hardly any one knew who he was. Well 
certainly lots of musicians knew who George was as he taught his Lydian 
Chromatic Concept for over 30 years at New England Conservatory. And I 
saw yesterday that someone called him "the father of Kind Of Blue." Of 
course, countless tunes show his influence as do a large number of 

Last fall there was a performance of George's music here in town. I 
tried to interview George. George's wife Alice said to me, "I think 
George's interviewing days are over." I was stunned to find out he was 
losing his hearing. I can't imagine what that must have been like for him.

R.I.P. George. I'll miss you. Thank you for the music.

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

Steve Schwartz wrote:
> This week's sponsor: JazzWeek Summit 2010, http://summit.jazzweek.com/
> *******************************************************
> 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. 
> A decade ago George was presented a "Jazz Achievement Award" by 
> The New England Foundation for The Arts. As a part of that award, 
> I got to co-produce a half hour radio documentary about him. 
> It's all George, talking about his life and career in music and samples 
> of the music he is talking about. 
> A fascinating first person account of a brilliant career.
> The program is available on the WGBH website. Simply go to:
> www.wgbh.org/jazz
> Look for the photo of Yusef Lateef (another recipient of that same Award).
> Scroll down until you see George's picture.
> Enjoy listening.
> Thank you George!
> Steve Schwartz
> Jazz from Studio Four
> Friday, 8p-midnight
> WGBH, 89.7FM, Boston
> www.wgbh.org/jazz
> *************************************************
> Registration is now open for JazzWeek Summit 2010, to be held at the Radisson Riverside Hotel in Rochester, N.Y., June 17-19. 
> Extra Early-Bird registration at $129 is open for the first 20 registrants. In addition, room rates at the newly-renovated Radisson Riverside start at $91 for single- or double-occupancy. We hope that by making the event  affordable, we can draw a greater number of participants. Hotel reservations are now open as well, with information at http://summit.jazzweek.com/
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