Ray Russell: Goodbye Svengali (2006)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Heavy chops and slick production values are the dominant traits of this recording by British guitar wizard Ray Russell. While offering due tribute to the guitar master's powers, I would have liked to have heard more ideas and fewer effects.
Russell was called up from the minors near the time fusion was starting to catch fire, and his sound remains redolent of that period. His playing, on single-note runs and complex, edgy chord voicings, is formidable indeed and not unlovely, though his artistic choices evoke bellbottoms and the studio processing is about as light as an SUV. Still, Goodbye Svengali is an accomplished piece of work that will appeal to guitar freaks and those who aren't averse to a lot of gadgetry in their jazz.
The record is named for the late Gil Evans ("Svengali" is Gerry Mulligan's anagram of Evans' name), who was a friend, mentor and colleague of Russell's. Evans is heard on Charles Mingus' classic "Goodbye Porkpie Hat, salvaged from an old tape and juiced up for this release. "Porkpie is the only standard on this record, and it is not handled in a standard jazz mode. None of the tunes are, and this is the rub: Goodbye Svengali, with its shades of rock and electric jazz, will not please most jazz listenersbut with its concomitant absence of vocals, neither is it likely to make rockers happy. It'll probably be enjoyed most by worshippers of electric guitar deities, and that's just fine.
Track Listing: Everywhere; Without a Trace; Goodbye Svengali; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Wailing Wall; Prayer to the Sun/The Fashion Police; So Far Away; Now Here's a Thing; Afterglow; Blaize.
Personnel: Robin Aspland: Fender Rhodes piano and Hammond B3 organ (1,8);
Amy Baldwin: double bass (1,3,8);
Gil Evans: keyboards (4);
Miles Evans: trumpet (3);
Mo Foster: bass guitar (6);
Gary Husband: drums and keyboards (3,6,9);
Tony Hymas: keyboards (10);
Anthony Jackson: contrabass (10);
Phil Peskett: keyboards (2);
Simon Phillips: drums (10);
Ray Russell: electric & acoustic guitars;
Ralph Salmins: drums (1,8).
Record Label: Cuneiform Records
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock