Tuesday 16 June 2009

George Russell Sextet - Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature - 1980 (1980)


"Nature likes those who give in to her, but she loves those who do not."

That quote is the inspiralion behind lhe title of George Russell's Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature, but it also, in some way, describes the composer. George Russell does not give in to the accepted norms of music. 
This stubbornness, if you will, this constant searching for new ways of musical expression has led to two important musical concepts - The Lydian Chromatic Concept and the Concept of Vertical Forms. At their simplest, the Lydian Chromatic Concept is based on the Lydian scale (a scale wilh a raised fourth - ie, C, D, E, F #, G, A, B) and the idea of Vertical Forms is the experiencing of layers of rhythmic modes (like standing on a crowded street comer and listening to all the sounds around you without focusing in on any one).

"I remember a musician who heard some of my music in Europe who said, 'You're an architect.' And that's what I am. I build structures. My focus is on the vertical evolution of a form, not necessarily on the horinzontal/linear 
exposition of that form. Music is architecture. Buildings go up - they're vertical forms."

This is how George Russell describes the musical idea which he has been working on since the late 1950's - the vertical form. And this is how he describes the basis for Electronic Sonata. Commissioned by the Norwegian Cultural Fund, the work was composed in 1968. The basis for the work was a tape made a year earlier composed of fragments of many different styles of music, avant-garde, jazz, ragas, blues, 
rock, serial music, etc, treated electronically upon which non-electronic musical statements of a pan-stylistic nature could be projected.

"This came about through my own compositional approach" says lhe composer. "The fact that I wanted to reflect the world cultural implosion at the time. This in 1968, don't forget. A long, long time ago. "Much is improvised, much is controlled improvisation, which is just what the Vertical Form technique is all about. The composer states a theme and suggests various tempos that the theme be played in. The band then plays 
the theme in those various tempos against, usually, a set or tonic tempo. So all of that is written -all ensembles are written, all solos are not written. But they may have a road to improvise on. So the composer is exercising varying degrees of control. But he's always in control. You never abandon control." 
The resulting piece is a melange of numerous musical styles. There are some funky bass riffs, some Eastern voicings, a bit of heavy rock guitar, a number of full-bodied tenor solos in a free bop vein, some African percussion and 
much space-age blips and beeps.


George Russell is heard here mainly on organ, as well as on the 13-year old tape which is the foundation for Electronic Sonata. "The tape was prepared at the electronic music studios of the Swedish Radio Ensemble on a huge computer. There are many things involved. The thing that sounds like a marimba is actually an old African man and his two sons. I have a friend who went to Uganda for the United Nations Relief Fund in 1967 and he brought me a tape of that Ugandan folk music. So we just run that through some remodulators and what not. The tape is fairly integrated with the orchestra. I think it may be the first example of that. There are three people playing at once on that tape, but the tape is so integrated with the other electronic material it's hard to distinguish what's what. For example, I spent some time on an organ in one of the old Norwegian churches and a friend of mine taped this and that was the basis of the material that this whole tape is 
based on - in conjunction with this African music which fits into this whole idea of a cultural implosion."

George Russell has been creative force in jazz ever since leaving his hometown Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was born, in 1923. He wrote his first arrangement, New World, as a drummer for Benny Carter's Band. The Lydian Chromatic Concept was developed during a 16-month stint in a New York City hospital, in the mid-40's. His first hit came with the introduction by Dizzie Gillespie of Cubana-Be and Cubana-Bop.

Russell spent much of the 50s working on his theories. He formed his own unit in 1960 which evenlually took him to Europe, where he taught in Stockholm and toured extensively. It was while in Europe that Russell developed and perfected his concept of Vertical Forms. Since then his time has been split between playing and teatching. ln the fall of 1980 he began his 11th year as a full-time professor at Boston's New England Conservatory. He is also currently revising his books on the Lydian Chromatic Concept. "I am aIso going to start a band in New York with the newer music that I've been writing," says George. "I'm going to perform as much as I can. With a new band and newer music and still further extensions of this idea of Vertical Form."

Russell was at the helm of a promising big band in the summer of 1978, but he gave it up "because most of our music was old music, although it wasn't old to the people who came to hear it. I want to have a band with one, concise, newer direction, the 1980s George Russell, not necessarily the whole. I still like the idea of presenting an "All About Rosie" with newer pieces, but need more newer pieces in the repetoire. That was a joy to do and I hope to be doing it again."

ln the meantime. there's Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature - a diverse, musical extravaganza. The piece is divided here into 14 "events". Each event represents a certain combination of rhythmic modes and, to Russel, " really expresses the whole Vertical Form idea. " The idea of the Vertical Form isn't new. An African drum choir has drummers laying sophisticated patterns, which are only sub divisions over the tonic lempo set by the principal drummer. It's really hard to verbalize something like this."

There is no need to verbalize - just play Electronic Sonata for yourself. Like all music, it is perfectly self-explanatory. From the blazing rock guitar of Comer to the pulse oft he African drummers to the gutsy solos of Soloff 
and Moore to the electronic wizardry of the leader to the rock steady rhythm of Copeland and Clark, this is another example of the genius of George Russell. A man who must be adored by nature. but not free of nature. "There's no such thing as free music", says George Russell, "because nothing under the sun is free. There's no such thing as freedom. There may be higher law, but everything is under law, under some kind of law. Even 
chance is under law." Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature is not 
chance.

LEE JESKE, from the inner cd booklet


TRACKLISTING:
1. Events I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII (23:45)
2. Events VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV (24:28)

** Recorded June 9 & 10, 1980 at Barigozzi Studio, Milano **
All compositions by George Russell, except Events VII, XII, XIII by Jan Garbarek.

Engineer - Giancarlo Barigozzi
Producer - Giovanni Bonandrini

Bass - J.F. Jenny Clark
Guitar - Victor Comer
Percussion - Keith Copeland
Piano, Organ - George Russell
Saxophone - Robert Moore
Trumpet - Lew Soloff


link@320

13 comments:

ish said...

Is this the same as http://strata-east.blogspot.com/2008/03/ses-19761-george-russell-electronic.html
which came out in 1976, or a new recording I wonder?

Festoonic said...

Musicians of Russell's stature get the opportunity to re-record their work too rarely. Thanks for upping this -- it looks very, very good.

jorge jesus said...

quer trocar?

Anonymous said...

krazy musik!

bravo juju said...

Dear Festoonic thanks for your feedback! Nice to share this with Russel's fans.
Dear Ish, that's a good question you've asked; in fact the album you've refered to is different of the one that we, the Ewings, have been listening to. Mr Russel's concept on using tapes as a mean to an, made possible to re-visit the idea. The album you pointed is from a 1968 record session, while this is from 1980. Thanks for sharing the link to the previous sonata project!
Russel's albums are listed here: http://sudo.3.pro.tok2.com/Quest/cards/G/GeorgeRussell/index.html

Your Loving Mother said...

RIP. Thanks for this though. Haven't heard this version yet, but the 1968 version is awesome.

mucho.sugoi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mucho.sugoi said...

Bravo Bravojuju, this album is a gem.
Soul Note and sister label Black Saint from Milan did turn up some great stuff in their times. You wouldn't happen to have George Russell Vertical Form VI? That album is a mastrpiece......Great blog, thanks.

bravo juju said...

The Ewing Clan entered Mr. Russel's atmosphere's by the time Electronic Sonata was posted here; we will get our hands on his other records! Stay tuned! Cheers!

taro nombei said...

Thanks so much for this, finally tracked it down!
Much appreciated — great blog!
TN

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