George Russell is the man who not only proved a huge influence on the revolutionary work of John Coltrane and Miles Davis but also inspired Jan Garbarek and other Europeans, yet he is not nearly as well known as his proteges. Now in his 75th year, the radical musical theorist appears at the Barbican tonight, as part of the Inventing America programme, with an 80-strong troupe that includes students from Paris and London alongside the Living Time Orchestra.

Another overlooked talent is James Spaulding. Equally impressive on flute and alto saxophone, he appeared on many of the great 1960s Blue Note albums as a sideman for the likes of Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner and Hank Mobley, but has made few recordings under his own name. Now in his 60s, he has just released in The Smile of the Snake, a record that indicates that he should have done much more. Nor is it just Spaulding's blowing that impresses on this date; all the players - but especially pianist Richard Wyands - contribute to a highly attractive modern jazz date.

Bill Frisell - as anybody who attended the recent Barbican performance in which he featured - is a guitarist who, for all his talents, can be difficult to love. But on the just-released album, The Sound of Summer Running (Verve) by bassist Marc Johnson, all such concerns disappear. With fellow guitar player Pat Metheny and drummer Joey Baron, this is a wonderfully upbeat and evocative slice of Americana. Though the record transcends more categories than you can count, the best track is perhaps "Ghost Town", where Frisell, who wrote it, shows off his country-inflected musicianship to great effect.

Finally, and still on the subject of genre-crossing, US independent Rounder has come up with the sort of project that it does best. It has encouraged three great women singers on its books to convert a one-off concert performance into an album. Often these affairs can be rather patchy, but - since the women involved are Irma Thomas and two artists who have long numbered themselves among her biggest fans, Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson - the resulting Sing It! is a rather wonderful concoction of R'n'B, blues and soul.

Comments