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George Allen Russell (June 23, 1923 – July 27, 2009) was an American jazz pianist, composer, arranger and theorist.
The Jazz Maverick - George Russell: A Musical Biography
Jazz wouldn't be the same without the contributions from the greats, one of which is the legendary George Russell. Russell was a composer, arranger, pianist, and theorist who impacted the jazz world through his innovative ideas and avant-garde style. He is known for his harmonic theory, called the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, which influenced other jazz legends like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. In this article, we'll delve into the life of this incredible artist, his art, and his contributions to jazz, and we'll also share some of his best works.
George Russell was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1923. His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was a chef who played saxophone. His parents' love for music would shape Russell's life and career. Russell started playing piano at the age of six and continued to develop his skills as a teenager, playing in various bands. Later, he studied at Wilberforce University, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Manhattan School of Music.
Russell moved to New York in 1945 and started working as a freelance pianist in jazz clubs. He eventually began to develop his composing and arranging skills, working with jazz legends like Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, and Art Blakey. Russell was always pushing the boundaries and experimenting with new sounds. His first album, The Jazz Workshop, was recorded in 1956. It was the beginning of a new era in jazz, and Russell's innovative style would catch the attention of many other artists.
One of Russell's most significant contributions to jazz was his Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. The theory is based on the Lydian mode, which is the first of the seven modes of the major scale. Russell believed that the Lydian mode was the most important mode in jazz and created a system that organized music around it. The system has had a significant impact on jazz, and Russell's influence can still be seen in the music of contemporary jazz artists.
Russell's music genre was mainly jazz, but he incorporated elements from various other genres, including classical, blues, and folk music. He broke down the traditional structure of jazz, introducing new rhythms and harmonies. His music was often described as avant-garde and experimental, and it was challenging for many to understand and appreciate.
Some of Russell's best works include All About Rosie, The Stratus Seekers, Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature, and Jazz in the Space Age. These songs showcase Russell's unique style and his ability to push the boundaries of jazz. Russell's music is not for everyone, but those who appreciate avant-garde jazz will find his work to be groundbreaking and inspiring.
Russell's concerts were often an experience, and his band would experiment with new sounds and rhythms. One of his most famous performances was at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960. Russell's band played Cubana Be Cubana Bop with a unique rhythm that left the audience in awe. Another memorable performance was at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1985, where Russell's band played Stratusphunk, a song that showcased his unique harmonic theory.
George Russell was an important figure in the jazz world, and his contributions to music will continue to inspire generations of musicians. He challenged the traditional structure of jazz, introducing new sounds and harmonies. His Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization has influenced many other artists and has had a significant impact on jazz. Russell's music genre was experimental, and his concerts were often like a journey into uncharted territory. His legacy lives on, and his impact on jazz cannot be overstated. If you're a fan of avant-garde jazz, then George Russell is a must-listen artist, and his music will take you on a journey that you won't forget.
1 - Stratusphunk
2 - Ezz-Thetic
3 - Nardis
4 - Honesty
5 - Lydiot
6 - Thoughts
7 - A Helluva Town
8 - Part II
9 - Witch Hunt
10 - Night Sound
11 - Fellow Delegates
12 - 'round Midnight
13 - Concerto For Billy The Kid
14 - Ye Hypocrite, Ye Beelzebub
15 - Big City Blues
16 - Manhattan
17 - Theme
18 - Jack's Blues
19 - A Helluva Town (sa-ra "go" Remix)
20 - Livingstone I Presume
21 - Round Johnny Rondo
22 - Waltz From Outer Space
23 - Knights Of The Steamtable
24 - Dimensions
25 - Manhattan-rico
26 - All About Rosie
27 - Event I
28 - Chromatic Universe, Part 1
29 - East Side Medley: Autumn In New York / How About You
30 - Bent Eagle
31 - The Stratus Seekers
32 - New Donna
33 - You Are My Sunshine
34 - Kentucky Oysters