Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CD of the Day - "Bill Evans & George Russell: Living Time"

CD of the Day
Bill Evans & George Russell Orchestra: "Living Time" (Columbia/Sony) 1972/1993

This may not be regarded as an "essential" item in George Russell's discography. But certainly it's an essential album in my George Russell collection. Actually, I consider the unexpected pairing of Russell and Bill Evans on "Living Time" (recorded at Columbia's 30th Street in NY, in May 1972) as one of the most stunning, provocative, intriguing, challenging and adventurous collaborations in jazz history. Period.
For those who are not familiar with this album, I must say "purists beware!" But even the most traditional Evans' fans shall listen to it, at least to be shocked. It's really a transcendental experience.
Evan's trio (with Bill on both acoustic & electric Fender Rhodes pianos, Eddie Gomez on acoustic bass and Marty Morell on drums) is augmented by a larger "rhythm section" featuring drummer Tony Williams, percussionist Marc Belair, keyboardists Webster Lewis (organ & Rhodes) & Ted Saunders (clavinet & Rhodes), guitarist Sam Brown, and nothing less than three bassists, all playing the Fender electric bass: Ron Carter (yesssss!), Stanley Clarke & Herb Bushler, each one playing in a different movement.
Among the members of the orchestra are Joe Henderson, Jimmy Giufree, Sam Rivers, Howard Johnson, Snooky Young, Garnett Brown and Ernie Royal.
To give you a small idea of this jazz adventure - composed, arranged & conducted by George Russell at Bill's request -, all I can say is that "Living Time" (a suite?) is divided into eight "events" (movements), "but it is clearly a single unified work," like Orrin Keepnews wrote in the original LP liner notes.
(My personal favorite "track" is "Event V", on which the two jazz geniuses achieve the complete fusion of their styles and the work reaches its climax.)
Orrin also explains Russell's "cycles" concept: "A cycle leader (or even the entire cycle) solos for a period determined not by a set number of bars but by 'clock time' - either a predetermined number of seconds or what the composer/conductor feels is 'right'..."
"It's as if I were creating an improvised sculpture," Russell added. In other words: it's beyond words.
I was lucky to get my CD copy during one of my several trips to Japan in the 90s, since it's a big shame that Sony never reissued it domestically in the USA.
You can catch the video interview from 1972 in which Bill talks a bit about the project here

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