Jazz: Jazz, the art of harmony
George Russell and the Living Time Orchestra Barbican Centre, London
Monday 09 March 1998
Saturday's concert began with the sublime "Stratusphunk" (the 1960 version arranged by Gil Evans) and ended with an encore version of "It's About Time", the title track from his latest CD, which began in a deceptively diaphanous, radio-friendly way before expertly folding into an ecstatic, densely packed finale. The composer seemed to shed 40 years during the concert, and his delight at the full-tilt outpourings of his young band expressed itself in an elegant little dance.
He can be excused a little self-congratulation. Though Russell's influence on the music world has been deep and wide-ranging (via celebrated contemporaries such as Bill Evans, Miles Davies and John Coltrane), his own work has often been marginalised. But not on this occasion. "Stratusphunk" kick- started a wide-ranging programme that included the long, four-movement "Vertical Form VI", for which he added 65 extra musicians drawn from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Paris Conservatoire. This dates from the Seventies, which means it sounds very current, with shuffle hi-hats, electric pianos and bass clarinets in an Altman-esque sprawl.
A smaller line-up played a dazzling version of Russell's early hit "All About Rosie", with a richly voiced piano solo from Steve Lodder and great blowing from Andy Sheppard, who was on wonderful form all evening.
Other star performers included Guy Barker (trumpet), Hiroaki Honshuku (flute) and Billy Ward, whose drumming kept the grooves ozone-fresh while remaining sensitive to Russell's dramatic changes.
(Russell displayed his credentials for the Barbican's American season with "Dialogue for Ornette", for a smaller, mainly student ensemble. Lavishly orchestrated and conducted by Pat Hollenbeck, it would sit quite happily on a programme with Adams, Ives, Zappa and Copland.)
"American Trilogy", played by the fully professional Living Time Orchestra, cycled effortlessly between full-throttle sonic attack and gorgeous orchestration, its subtext of jazz history employed with good humour. "Trilogy" made the most of Russell's heavyweight team: Chris Biscoe's blistering alto sound put a distinctive stamp on the ensemble melodies, Dave Bargeron (trombone) and Stanton Davies (trumpet) excelled in an unaccompanied duet; Brad Hatfield's keyboard cadenza was a Raymond Carver short story morphed into gospel piano and organ.
George Russell danced back and beamed, with a jazz composer's satisfaction that beyond the notes on a page lay the orchestration of diverse, complementary personalities. The result was a torrent of continuous invention that left the audience high on music, smiling at the sound of surprise.
Life & Style blogs
Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
Fake goats’ cheese found in supermarkets
Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
Uber France apologises for sexist promotion offering men free rides with 'incredibly hot chicks' as drivers
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
- 1 Marijuana use by teenagers does not result in a lower IQ or worse exam results, study finds
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...
£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...
£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...
£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...