George Russell is now in the database

George Russell (1923-2009)

Composer, music theorist, jazz pianist George Russell (1923-2009) is now listed in the database.

Russell is most known as a theorist, creating the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization (LLC) which became the backbone of modal jazz in the 1950s. In 1964, he left the states and settled in Sweden where he was able to focus on large scale works, including the ballet suite, Othello (recorded in 1967, released in 1970).

Richard Cook in the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD describes Othello Ballet Suite “…the most obvious example of how his imagination turns on movement—in this case, the curiously inward movements of Shakespeare’s play—and on the formation of black identity in the West…Russell’s orchestration is curiously reminiscent of Ravel, and cloys in consequence; the saxophones sound slightly out of pitch.”

Othello Ballet Suite includes Arne Domnerus on alto saxophone, and Bernt Rosengren and Jan Garbarek tenor saxophone. Garbarek, only 20 at the time of this recording got his start in jazz playing with George Russell when he was 17. Othello Ballet Suite is Garbarek’s debut recording.

Only two years after the recording of Othello, Russell came back to the states, teaching at the New England Conservatory until his retirement in 2005. For more information on George Russell, check out Jason Bivin’s Spirits Rejoice! Jazz and American Religion which talks about George Russell and his works in Sweden.

Published by Mary Huntimer

Saxophonist, teacher, opera and silent movie enthusiast. All opinions are my own.

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