Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Sad Day

I learned that George Russell, composer and pianist, passed away last night at the age of 86. He created the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, which influenced Miles Davis' and John Coltrane's use of modes, and the system has been called "the only original theory to come from jazz".

His string of mid-50s albums for Riverside highlighted his original compositional sense and his outstanding arrangements for small groups. The mid- 60s Live at Beethoven Hall albums for the German MPS label featured Don Cherry and are some of my absolute favorites to this day. His reworking of classics like Round Midnight demonstrate how the Lydian Concept changes a musician's approach to the relationship between scales and chords.

During the sixties he worked frequently in Europe, particularly Sweden, and his recordings feature some of the earliest work from future ECM mainstays Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal and Jon Christensen. He returned to the United States, taught at the New England Conservatory of Music, and released big band albums like The African Game on Blue Note. In the eighties he formed the Living Time Orchestra with a pool of international musicians. This chapter of his career is his least interesting, in my opinion, as the rock influences sound a little corny and overdone to these ears.

Nonetheless, George Russell was an relatively unsung giant in the jazz world, and I will be listening to his work for years to come.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations for being among only few of the jazz-bloggers who mentioned George Russell's demise!