The George Russell Sextet - Ezz-thetics
Bitrate: 224 kbps
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. ~ Troy Collins
"Recently re-released on the 'Keepnews Collection' "Ezz-thetics" is my favourite of all Russell's Riverside output. The new reissue has the usual updated and perceptive and historically significant notes by the redoubtable Mr. Keepnews and has two previously unissued bonus tracks as well. Russell's bands fluctuated with different players but always sounded so modern and creative but this edition of the sextet was special because it had Eric Dolphy playing alto and bass clarinet. Dolphy joined for a few months and made this album with Don Ellis on trumpet, who was later to make his mark as a bandleader, David Baker on trombone,the wonderful and forgotten drummer Joe Hunt and the recording debut of Steve Swallow, playing accoustic bass make this a once in a lifetime session. Dolphy's energy and creativity make this recording significant but Ellis is on fire as well and this was to be the last recording by David Baker on trombone who as Keepnews says sounds both avant-guard and funky at the same time. Baker was playing with a dislocated jaw and right after this recording had an operation and switched from trombone to cello. Baker to this day is one of the leading educators in Jazz and classical music. Russell's piano is spare like Monk's and is so effective in solo and the fills for the horn players. The title track is an exciting and updated composition that Russell wrote for Miles and Lee Konitz in the early 50's and dedicated to the great Jazz loving prize fighter Ezzard Charles, hence the title,'Ezz-thetic'. The other highlight of this recording is one of the most unique versions of Monk's ''Round Midnight'. There are so many highlights to this album that one should hear it all and marvel at the very contemporary concept and sound of this March 1961 date."
Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet)
George Russell (piano)
Don Ellis (trumpet)
Dave Baker (trombone)
Steve Swallow (acoustic bass)
Joe Hunt (drums)
The George Russell Sextet - Ezz-thetics tracks:
06 'Round Midnight