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Ray Russell: Goodbye Svengali

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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 listeners—but 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 Herre's a Thing; Afterglow; Blaize.

Personnel: Ray Russell: electric guitar, EBow, acoustic guitar, 7-string guitar, keyboards, classical guitar, Roland guitar synthesizer; Robin Aspland: Fender Rhodes, 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 (3,6), keyboards (6, 9); Tony Hymas: keyboards (10); Anthony Jackson: contrabass (10); Phil Peskett: keyboards (2); Simon Phllips: drums (10); Ralph Salmins: drums (1,8).

Title: Goodbye Svengali | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

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