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.

Monday, July 27, 2009

7/27/09 What I'm Listening To

Parker/Guy/Lytton/Crispell, Natives & Aliens

Baikida Carroll, Marionettes on a High Wire

J.R. Monterose, s/t

John Coltrane, Blue Train

Greg Osby, The Invisible Hand

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Good Old Days

Like a lot of jazz fans, I buy most of my CDs through mail order, but back in the day (the day being when we actually had things called record stores) I also bought from brick-and-mortar outfits to support their efforts. For example, the Tower store here in Dallas had a surprisingly good jazz section. There was just no substitute for browsing, finding something unexpected, and taking it home that day.

This is surely a case of beating a dead horse, but I find it incredibly sad that I can’t go out on my day off and buy a copy of one of the new ECMs (Parker, Sclavis, Vitous) anywhere in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.  An area of several million people, and no one carries this stuff anymore!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Releases We’ll See in 20 Years

The Hits: The Very Best of Evan Parker and the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

Steve Reynolds Collector’s Edition of Mujician’s Colours Fulfilled with inflatable Paul Dunmall doll

Sine Wave Sonata for test pattern and no-output ironing board (Erstwhile)

Diana Krall and Mats Gustafsson: Love Songs

And on the Fox Network Times (formerly the New York Times) Bestseller’s List:

How I Killed Jass Music by Jon Abbey

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Praise of Patrick Gleeson

The "fusion" movement of the late 60's/70's was a mixed bag, with innovations in rhythm, tonal palettes and the use of electronics charting a new path yet standing alongside indulgent excesses that today you might be embarrassed to admit you listened to (Romantic Warrior, anyone?) 

Someone I think is due for more recognition is Dr. Patrick Gleeson, who was part of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi group that recorded Crossings for Warner Bros. and Sextant for Columbia. If memory serves, I believe he taught Herbie about the synthesizer. He is also an integral presence on Julian Priester's overlooked Love, Love, which I think is a fusion classic. If you haven't checked that album out, which ECM re-released on CD, it's worth your time.

He seemed to disappear for awhile, but he and Bennie Maupin put out Driving While Black in 1998. It's ironic that the advances in keyboard technology and sequencing make him a little more generic sounding than his earlier analog work. I see that he released Jazz Criminal in 2007 with Jim Lang, who appears to be a studio keyboard player. Anyone heard this?

07/14/09 What I'm Listening To

Ellery Eskelin, Ten

Anthony Braxton, The Montreux/Berlin Concerts

Joe Lovano, Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard

Anthony Braxton, Composition 96

My Earliest Braxton Memory

I believe the first time I heard Anthony Braxton was while listening to Willis Conover's Voice of America broadcast one morning before school, around '73 or '74. I had heard of Braxton, but I think this was before New York Fall 1974 came out, which was my formal introduction to his music.

The broadcast was a tape from the Newport Jazz Festival, one of those all-star jams where they play a theme, a seemingly endless parade of soloists follow, and then the theme is restated. Braxton just cut through like a knife with his uniquely angular phrasing, and he got the biggest ovation from the crowd. 

Does anyone know the specifics of this performance? I don't think it's ever been released.