434

George Russell Sextet: Ezz-Thetics

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
George Russell Sextet: Ezz-Thetics A post-war masterpiece, Ezz-Thetics is pianist/arranger George Russell's definitive 1961 sextet recording from the earliest phase of his multi-decade career. On par with such iconic albums as Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961), Mal Waldron's The Quest (Riverside, 1961) and Andrew Hill's Point of Departure (Blue Note, 1964), Ezz-Thetics traffics in the same advanced but accessible strain of avant-garde-influenced post-bop.

Author of The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization (pub. 1953), Russell's seminal concepts of improvisation, based on scales rather than chords, became the driving force behind the early modal explorations of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. This pioneering session offers a singular and visionary view of classic post-bop that is ageless in its perfection.

Starring a phenomenal group of talent, Russell's sextet features multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy, trumpeter Don Ellis, trombonist Dave Baker, a young Steve Swallow on acoustic bass and drummer Joe Hunt. Undaunted by Russell's unorthodox arrangements and tricky, pan-tonal harmonic sensibility, these young firebrands tackle these knotty compositions with flawless technique and unbounded creativity.

"Ezz-Thetic" opens the album with a bustling, circuitous theme that ripples with spiraling angularity. Inspiring a round of exhilarating statements from the horns, the tune breaks down into a sequence of recurrent call and response between the rhythm section and brass that eschews typical conventions of pattern and form.

Supported by subtle counterpoint and an elegant arrangement, Miles Davis' exotic "Nardis" is given a haunting reading. The sly and unassuming "Lydiot" reveals Russell's minimalist angularity behind the piano, while Dolphy displays a keening, expressive aspect in contrast to Ellis' dulcet trumpet.

Using the blues as a basic framework, Baker's contribution, "Thoughts," incorporates free-form sections at regular intervals, exposing the fine line between tradition and innovation. "Honesty" is a celebratory ode; a vibrant hybrid of classic swing and edgy futurism that contrasts bluesy lyricism with suspenseful, stop-time segments.

A prescient rendition of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" acts as a showpiece for Dolphy. Opening with a free-form section of tiny instrumental sounds and highly vocalized brass effects, it pre-dates the work of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music) by almost a decade. A brilliant study in dynamics and virtuosity, Dolphy's alto solo is legendary. Incorporating intervallic leaps and register changes with a highly vocalized tone and mellifluous phrasing, he offers a definitive statement on a hallowed theme.

Two takes of the previously unissued "Kige's Tune" appear as bonus tracks. A driving bop-ish vehicle, it is a worthwhile addition, providing the perfect coda to a brilliant session.

Cerebral and innovative, yet firmly grounded in tradition, Ezz-Thetics is essential listening and an absolute requirement for any comprehensive jazz collection. Russell's masterwork is beautiful, enthralling and adventurous, a perfect summation of all the innovations post-war jazz has to offer.

Track Listing: Ezz-Thetic; Nardis; Lydiot; Thoughts; Honesty; 'Round Midnight; Kige's Tune (take 2); Kige's Tune (take 5).

Personnel: George Russell: piano, arranger; Don Ellis: trumpet; Dave Baker: trombone; Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, bass clarinet (2, 4); Stephen Swallow: bass; Joe Hunt: drums.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Riverside | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read LifeCycle CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Right Up On CD/LP/Track Review Right Up On
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Wanderlust CD/LP/Track Review Wanderlust
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Imagination CD/LP/Track Review Imagination
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Evolution CD/LP/Track Review Evolution
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 23, 2017
Read On A Monday Evening CD/LP/Track Review On A Monday Evening
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Away With You" CD/LP/Track Review Away With You
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 18, 2016
Read "Time Being" CD/LP/Track Review Time Being
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 12, 2017
Read "Under the Influence" CD/LP/Track Review Under the Influence
by Doug Collette
Published: July 2, 2016
Read "Live At Blues Alley" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Blues Alley
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "Araminta" CD/LP/Track Review Araminta
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 17, 2017
Read "Rough Boundaries" CD/LP/Track Review Rough Boundaries
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: July 31, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!