Monday, December 15, 2008

The Strausphunkish Music of George Russell

George Russell spent his life pursuing a theory of music. His quest began, interestingly enough, with a remark by Miles Davis in 1945. Russell asked Davis was his musical aim was. Davis answered, with that Zen master gift of his, that it was "to learn all the changes." There are a lot of stories about Miles that go like this. Anyway, Russell landed in a hospital with TB that same year, and spent 16 months working on Davis' Koan. The result was his "Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization." I understand that title the way a well-trained dog understands the word "fetch." I have vague ideas about scales and such, and I can sniff around for them. But I don't understand much more than that. Anyway, Russell's theories seem to have been the foundation of the modal jazz work of Davis and Coltrane. That's pretty good, considering that Russell was working as a clerk at Macy's when his book was published.

I have been listening to Russell's early sixties work. Ezz-thetics is probably his most famous recording. It has a very interesting cover of 'Round Midnight.' Here is the title piece from Stratusphunk. It's not half bad.

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