Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jazz in the Space Age

Years ago, I had a lesson with Roswell Rudd. At that lesson, he told me he had decided that he should not teach his individual solutions to improvisation to others, that I should find my own way. His advice was, "if I were your age, I would go find George Russell and follow him around."

Several years later, I met Mr. Russell at Bennington College, where I studied and later taught. Bill Dixon had invited him up. Bill and George used to live in the same building on Bank Street in New York city. Bill was George's copyist at the time. "There where two sets of cats who came to our building to study. One set went upstairs to study with George. The other set came to study with me."

When I moved to the city in 1982, I spent the summer watching rehearsals of the George Russell Living Time Orchestra. They took place at Henry Threadgill's AIR studio. The trumpet section was Ron Tooley, Stanton Davis and Tom Harrell. After awhile, I began to sub for Stanton, who I had also met at Bennington.

When the orchestra returned from it's European tour, Stanton asked me to sub again, this time at the Village Vanguard. Stanton was in the pit for Black and Blue on Broadway at the time. During that week I assisted by training two other subs, Ray Anderson and Brian Lynch, running them through the parts in George's hotel room.

George was a singular musician; innovative and, I think it is fair to say, underappreciated. And George was, shall we say, a complex human being.

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