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George Russell: The Story of an American Composer
     

George Russell: The Story of an American Composer

by Duncan Heining
 

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From inauspicious beginnings as an adopted child in 1920's Cincinnati, George Russell overcame ill-health and transcended racism to become recognized as a unique figure in jazz: a major composer, bandleader, professor, and the music's leading theoretician. The author of The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization and composer of a significant body of

Overview

From inauspicious beginnings as an adopted child in 1920's Cincinnati, George Russell overcame ill-health and transcended racism to become recognized as a unique figure in jazz: a major composer, bandleader, professor, and the music's leading theoretician. The author of The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization and composer of a significant body of small group and orchestral works, Russell influenced the development of jazz and many of its leading practitioners.

George Russell: The Story of an American Composer is the first biography of one of the greatest figures in jazz. Russell's story is interwoven with some of the most colorful characters in the history of the music—musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis, and Gil Evans. Written with Russell's full cooperation and extensively researched with interviews from friends, family members, musicians, associates, and commentators on jazz, the book reveals many valuable insights and previously unknown facts about Russell's life. Not only a biography, this volume also reflects and celebrates the evolution of modern jazz while presenting a re-evaluation of the relationship between jazz and classical music.

Editorial Reviews

Arts Fuse
In George Russell: The Story of an American Composer, Duncan Heining has done a masterful job of establishing a line of continuity from Russell's early life, through his first musical incarnation as a drummer, through his early compositions and his formulation of the Concept, through his adventures as bandleader and educator, to his last works, demonstrating that they are all of a piece. . . . In the best of all possible words, Duncan Heining’s biography will be the cornerstone of the edifice that will in time erect to the memory of George Russell and his gift to music.
Jazz Uk
Duncan Heining’s biography. . . could not be more timely in placing [George Russell’s] life and work within the broader context of mid-20th century music. . . . Heining elucidates how Russell’s ‘separateness’ was assimilated into his playing and composing rather than projected onto an overtly political stance. . . . From this perspective Russell was ideally placed to elaborate his own theory of the relationship between the music around him and the way it could be realised.
Jazzwise
Duncan Heining’s full length biography of Russell is a terrific piece of research, separating fact from fiction, occasionally fictions propagated - or at least not dispelled - by Russell himself. We get the story of his childhood experiences of racism in Cincinnati, his struggle with tuberculosis, and his gradual emergence from an undistinguished high school career into a major practical influence and an academically inspiring figure in music. . . . Heining skilfully depicts the importance of Russell on the careers of Bill Evans and Jan Garbarek in particular, and through discussion and diligent document sifting also shows his remarkable influence on a huge panoply of players as disparate as Carla Bley and Steve Swallow, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and David Baker.
Jazznyt
From this research Heining has constructed the biography of a great musician and thinker, who served as an important figure in the process of freeing jazz musicians from the conventions and boundaries that had hemmed them in. ... All in all, this is a very readable book, which can be safely recommended for anyone with a love for this wonderful multifaceted form of music we call jazz.
E son du grisli
Heining’s work is no hagiography. But then, the author has taken care to add to the history an elaborate discography, a long agenda of concerts given with different formations and a dense bibliography. At the heart of the book is George Russell, a singular musician and outstanding thinker who, like Gil Evans, Teddy Charles and Jimmy Giuffre, did much to break down musical barriers.
July-September 2010 Cadence Magazine
All this makes for a good read and a handy companion for anyone wishing to immerse themselves in Russell's work. . . . George Russell: The Story of an American Composer gives one a good handle on that aspect of Russell's life.
The New York City Jazz Record
His story begins to come to light in this engaging volume, equal parts biography, social history and musical analysis. . . The book makes a compelling argument for the importance of the innovative music Russell made here and (mostly) abroad during the period, hopefully provoking a reexamination of he composers total body of work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810869974
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
12/17/2009
Series:
African American Cultural Theory and Heritage Series
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
1,364,350
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Duncan Heining has written about Jazz for a number of publications, including Jazzwise, Jazz UK, The Independent, and Record Collector.

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