When one examines the evolution of jazz, certain key individuals stand out as turning points. For free jazz in Chicago, it was Hal Russell's various groups that eventually helped spur Mars Williams and Ken Vandermark to prominence (at least on record); and that has led us to a virtual avalanche of good music. So it's worth taking a closer look at the man who gave momentum to this turn.
In the early days, Russell was primarily a drummer. Elixir, a '79 live recording from Chicago, documents a show where he's joined by saxophonists Mars Williams and Spider Middleman. (His long-time ...read more
The music of Chemical Feast incorporates an ingredient often lacking from most free jazz - a healthy helping of humor and whimsy. One of Hal Russell’s numerous pre-NRG vehicles, the quintet juggled a manic improvisatory energy with all-wheel drive versatility and a circus-like jocularity pervaded their music. As the first of a series of archival recordings culled from Russell’s extensive private tape cache by John Corbett and Mars Williams the rollicking performance captured on this disc presents the band in front of a small Chicago gallery audience circa the close of the 70s.
Russell is the charismatic barker behind the ...read more
Multi-instrumentalist and beloved free-jazz pioneer Hal Russell passed away in 1991 as the newly released Albert’s Lullaby represents one of Russell’s final recordings. Russell and his “NRG Ensemble” were infamous for crafting abstract, gleefully rambunctious avant-garde jazz compositions and improvisations as Russell also helped establish paradigms for many of our younger and present day modern or – new – jazz stylists. With Albert’s Lullaby (referencing Albert Ayler), Russell along with bassist and producer Mike Staron, drummer Rick Shandling and pianist, “Sparrow” (who appears on selected tracks) effortlessly, intuitively and somewhat aggressively whirl through a series of combination compositions/improvisations. The music ...read more