George Allen Russell (1923 - 2009)

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Birth

in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio United States

Death

on in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts United States

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Middle name

Allen

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Nationality

American U.S.

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Male

Timeline

1923 - In the year that George Allen Russell was born, Harlem's Cotton Club opened in New York City. Owned by a bootlegger and gangster, it was a 700 seat speakeasy that catered to a "white only" clientele. But most of the entertainers were African-American and featured some of the best entertainers of the time such as Lena Horne, the Nicholas Brothers, Ethel Waters, and Cab Calloway.

1932 - He was merely 9 years old when five years to the day after Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart flew solo from Newfoundland to Ireland, the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo and the first to replicate Lindbergh's feat. She flew over 2,000 miles in just under 15 hours.

1952 - George was 29 years old when on July 2, Dr. Jonas E. Salk tested the first dead-virus polio vaccine on 43 children. The worst epidemic of polio had broken out that year - in the U.S. there were 58,000 cases reported. Of these, 3,145 people had died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.

1971 - At the age of 48 years old, George was alive when in March, Congress passed the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which lowered the voting age to 18 (from 21). It was a response to the criticism that men could fight at 18, but not vote for the policies and politicians who sent them to war. The states quickly ratified the Amendment and it was signed into law on July 1st by President Richard Nixon.

1978 - At the age of 55 years old, George was alive when on November 18th, Jim Jones's Peoples Temple followers committed mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana - where they had moved, from San Francisco, as a group. Jones was the leader of the cult and ordered his followers to drink cyanide-laced punch, which they did. Whole families (women and children included) died - more than 900 people in all.

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Obituary

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George Allen Russell
Birth name George Allen Russell
Born June 23, 1923
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Died July 27, 2009 (aged 86)
Boston, Massachusetts
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, arranger
Instruments Piano
Website [external link]

George Allen Russell (June 23, 1923 – July 27, 2009) was an American jazz pianist, composer, arranger and theorist. He is considered one of the first jazz musicians to contribute to general music theory with a theory of harmony based on jazz rather than European music, in his book Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization (1953).[1]

Russell was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to a white father and a black mother,[2] later the adopted only child of a nurse and a chef on the B & O Railroad, Bessie and Joseph Russell. Young Russell sang in the choir of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and listened to the Kentucky Riverboat music of Fate Marable.[3] He made his stage debut at age seven, singing "Moon Over Miami" with Fats Waller.

Surrounded by the music of the black church and the big bands which played on the Ohio Riverboats, and with a father who was a music educator at Oberlin College, he started playing drums with the Boy Scouts and Bugle Corps, receiving a scholarship to Wilberforce University, where he joined the Collegians, a band noted as a breeding ground for great jazz musicians including Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Charles Freeman Lee, Frank Foster, and Benny Carter. Russell served in that band at the same time as another noted jazz composer, Ernie Wilkins. When called up for the draft at the beginning of World War II, he was quickly hospitalized with tuberculosis, where he was taught the fundamentals of music theory by a fellow patient.

After his release from the hospital, he played drums with Benny Carter's band, but decided to give up drumming as a vocation after hearing Max Roach, who replaced him in the orchestra. Inspired by hearing Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight", Russell moved to New York in the early 1940s, where he became a member of a coterie of young innovators who frequented the 55th Street apartment of Gil Evans, a clique which included Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, and John Lewis, later the music director of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Russell began playing piano, leading a series of groups which included Bill Evans, Art Farmer, Hal McKusick, Barry Galbraith, Milt Hinton, Paul Motian, and others. Jazz Workshop was his first album as leader, and one where he played relatively little, as opposed to masterminding the events (rather like his colleague Gil Evans). He was to record a number of impressive albums over the next several years, sometimes as primary pianist.

In 1957, Russell was one of six jazz musicians commissioned by Brandeis University to write a piece for their Festival of the Creative Arts. He wrote a suite for orchestra, All About Rosie, which featured Bill Evans among other soloists, and has been cited as one of the few convincing examples of composed polyphony in jazz.[8]

Members of the orchestra on his 1958 extended work, New York, N.Y., included Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Art Farmer, Milt Hinton, Bob Brookmeyer, and Max Roach, among others, and featured wrap-around raps by singer/lyricist Jon Hendricks. Jazz in the Space Age (1960) was an even more ambitious big band album, featuring the unusual dual piano voicings of Bill Evans and Paul Bley. Russell formed his own sextet in which he played piano. Between 1960 and 1963, the Russell Sextet featured musicians like Dave Baker and Steve Swallow and memorable sessions with Eric Dolphy (on Ezz-thetics) and singer Sheila Jordan (their bleak version of "You Are My Sunshine" on The Outer View (1962) is highly regarded).

In 1964, Mr. Russell, who as a half black man was dismayed by race relations in the United States, moved to Scandinavia.[9] He toured Europe with his sextet and lived in Scandinavia for five years. Through the early 1970s, Russell did most of his work in Norway and Sweden. He played there with young musicians who would go on to international fame: guitarist Terje Rypdal, saxophonist Jan Garbarek and drummer Jon Christensen.

This Scandinavian period also provided opportunities to write for larger groupings, and Russell's larger-scale compositions of this time pursue his idea of "vertical form", which he described as "layers or strata of divergent modes of rhythmic behaviour". The Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature, commissioned by Bosse Broberg of Swedish Radio for the Radio Orchestra, was first recorded in 1968, as an extended work recorded with electronic tape. It continued Russell's continuing exploration of new approaches and new instrumentation.

Russell returned to America in 1969, when Gunther Schuller assumed the presidency of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and appointed Russell to teach the Lydian Concept in the newly created jazz studies department, a position he held for many years. As Russell toured with his own groups, he was persistent in developing the Lydian Concept. He played the Bottom Line, Newport, Wolftrap, The Village Vanguard, Carnegie Hall, Sweet Basil and more with his 14-member orchestra.[10]

George Russell died of complications from Alzheimer's disease in Boston, Massachusetts, on July 27, 2009, according to his publicist.[15]

He received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1989. In his career, Russell also received the 1990 National Endowment for the Arts American Jazz Master Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the British Jazz Award, among others. He has been elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy, won the Oscar du Disque de Jazz Award, the Guardian Award, the American Music Award, six NEA Music Fellowships and numerous others.[10] He taught throughout the world, and was a guest conductor for German, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish radio groups.

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Sheila Jordan says he was one of the best jazz men in the world.
Jul 21, 2017 · Reply
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