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Bebop Spoken There

Jackie Paris: "A singer's got to be able to tell a story. Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole are best at that; Mel Tormé too. I like to take a lyric that means something and sing it right to the person it was meant for." - (DownBeat October 11, 1962).


Daily: July 6 - October 27

Precarity John Akomfrah’s film (2017, 46 mins) about Buddy Bolden - Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA. Tel: 0191 478 1810. Screenings at intervals during the day. Part of Akomfrah's exhibition Ballasts of Memory. Exhibition (daily) July 6 - October 27. 10:00am-6:00pm. Free.

Today Monday September 16



Precarity John Akomfrah’s film (2017, 46 mins) about Buddy Bolden (see above).

Jazz in the Afternoon - Cullercoats Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 4QS. Tel: 0191 253 0242. 1:00pm. Free admission.



To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

George Russell - Please don't take my sunshine away! by George Milburn

I heard the news on Tuesday, put on The African Game loud, and opened the holy book: The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization for Improvisation* by George Russell, which I paid 30 quid for at Bracknell Jazz Festival in 1987 - aye, they saw me coming! George gave a talk there on his compositional concepts, along with the most amazing anecdotes featuring the Who's Who of Jazz, before taking to the stage that evening with his 'super-group' Living Time Orchestra, to play a specially arranged version of The African Game. Looking at this, around 28 strong orchestra, bathed in Saturnian light variations in tiers on stage, reminded me of the Sergeant Pepper album sleeve - "Isn't that Albert Mangellsdorf ? aye and Ashley Slater poking Evan Parker in the back with his haddaway comeback - but it's OK, Andy Sheppard's circular breathing on him, and Chris Biscoe's looking stern....." Dream jazz I-Spy! They say George had Alzheimer's disease which, by 86, could be the fate of many of us ; but, I hope it's only family and friends who's faces I forget and not which note is which on the piano keyboard! Miles is reported to have joked with George, "F should be where middle C is on the piano" All for the modal love of lydian! The Guardian obituary, which Lance has usefully linked below, lists the key jazz innovators and albums influenced by George - Bill Evans, Miles' Kind of Blue, Coltrane, Dolphy, Sun Ra. Then later, in 78, along came the groundbreaking Ralph Towner's Solstice, where George's spirit cycles around again in the playing of Jan Garbarek, Jon Christensen, Eberhard Weber - fantastic stuff that hints at life's eternal nature of birth and rebirth. Meanwhile, on a sultry evening in Bracknell, an African Dawn is miraculously breaking on stage: George has added a haunting waking sequence with each player improvising their element of a huge shimmering sunrise over the Serengeti plain - brilliant! Standing facing us at the grand piano keyboard, George raises his hand to count in the score, fingers I, II, III, then startlingly disappears as he misses his piano stool and hits the stage ; unperturbed, the players take off without a driver, a stage manager rushes forward and lifts George beneath his armpits back onto the stool ; no more is said as we sit transfixed by The African Game. So now we can look forward to some wonderful moments of jazz documentary, probably on BBC 4, as George's friends, ex pupils, composers and professors of music take us through the elements of this great man's life. Not forgetting that lovely live interview with Sheila Jordan at The Sage on Radio 3: she warmly describes how she and George became lovers in the early 60's and he was taken home to meet the family. Her Gran's favourite song was top of the set as George took to the piano to back Sheila singing You are my Sunshine, in his own inimitable style; if you've heard the later recording on George's The Outer View, you'll appreciate why we can only imagine granny's face as she pushed him off the stool, "This is how it goes man!" So at last now, after 22 years, I can open the *LCC (as his concept became known) safe in the knowledge that it's a classic and its author is safely tucked up in Third Stream heaven, asking all who knew or knew of him, "Please don't take my sunshine away!" George, (not Russell !!)


shepherdlass said...

I well remember seeing the George Russell Anglo-American Big Band on Wednesday, 12 March, 1986, at the People's Theatre, Newcastle. I probably annoyed people around me by singing along (softly) when they did Miles Davis's So What" solo for the complete band, but I was in jazz heaven!
Ater the gig, George and I had a nice chat, having a mutual friend at Decca Records New York office, and George kindly signed my copy of his "New York, N. Y." album with the following: "Think you can lick it . . Jump to the wicket, Dave . . . (signed) George Russell", a paraphrase of the opening Jon Hendricks narration. I also have the other two albums he did for Decca, "George Russell Sextet At The Five Spot" (a misleading title, as it's not a 'live' album)autographed "To Dave . . .Hang In and keep it going . . .(signed) George Russell, and George Russell Sextet in K. C.", "To Dave - my good friend . . . best of everything" but this one's not autographed by George. All three albums came to me from our mutual friend at Decca Records, New York when I wrote for a while for music mags in the States. Dave The Rave

Paul said...

The death of George Russell, after several years of declining health, breaks another link in my personal jazz history. While I was still at school, his 1961 album Ezz-thetics sat alongside recordings by the likes of Mingus, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor as hugely exciting examples of the way that jazz was opening up to newly liberating approaches. I didn’t see him live until his superb concert at Newcastle’s People’s Theatre in 1986, and then again at his 80th birthday concert in London in 2003, and on both occasions was struck by his infectious enthusiasm, his continuing receptiveness to new ideas, and his inspirational encouragement of successive generations of young musicians. His influential ‘Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organisation’, like Ornette’s Harmolodic Theory, just makes my eyes glaze over, but the gift to my ears, and to the development of contemporary jazz, has been enormous. Thanks George.
(Copied from Paul Bream's Newsletter with Paul's permission.)

Anonymous said...

I too was at the Bracknell festival in 87 - I saw the band, but not the talk. It was an excellent gig, as far as I recall - by chance, I sat next to the late Richard Cook. I was just discovering jazz at the time (I have a vague memory of going to Bracknell because the Jazz Warriors or Loose Tubes were on the bill - and because I knew Andy Sheppard was in the George Russell big band).

It was a great sound - sorely missed.

Sheila Jordan (on Facebook) said...

My friend George Russell passed away last night while I was in the hospital. He was a beautiful and brilliant man and I loved him dearly.

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About this blog - contact details.

Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: I look forward to hearing from you.

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