All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » George Russell

George Russell George Russell

George Russell is an NEA Jazz Master

George Russell is a hugely influential, innovative figure in the evolution of modern jazz, the music's only major theorist, one of its most profound composers, and a trail blazer whose ideas have transformed and inspired some of the greatest musicians of our time.

Russell was born in Cincinnati in 1923, the adopted son of a registered nurse and a chef on the B&O Railroad. He began playing drums with the Boy Scout Drum and Bugle Corps and eventually received a scholarship to Wilberforce University where he joined the Collegians, whose list of alumni include Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, Ben Webster, Cootie Williams, Ernie Wilkins and Frank Foster. But his most valuable musical education came in 1941, when, in attempting to enlist in the Marines, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, spending 6 months in the hospital where he was taught the fundamentals of harmony from a fellow patient. From the hospital he sold his first work, “New World,” to Benny Carter. He joined Benny Carter's Band, but was replaced by Max Roach; after Russell heard Roach, he decided to give up drumming. He moved to New York where he was part of a group of musicians who gathered in the basement apartment of Gil Evans. The circle included Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Max Roach, Johnny Carisi and on occasion, Charlie Parker. He was commissioned to write a piece for Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra; the result was the seminal “Cubano Be/Cubano Bop” the first fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz, premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1947 and featuring Chano Pozo. Two years later his “Bird in Igor's Yard” was recorded by Buddy DeFranco, a piece notable for its fusion of elements from Charlie Parker and Stravinsky.

Read more

Tags

”A brain blasting, soul-cleansing expression of absolutely immediate and endlessly creative originality.” - Marty Khan

Photos

Albums

Album Ezz-Thetics by George Russell

Ezz-Thetics

Riverside
2007

buy
Album The 80th Birthday Concert by George Russell

The 80th Birthday...

Concept Publishing
2005

buy
 

Jazz-Thetic

JJ-Tracks
2005

buy

Watch

Similar

Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
Charles Mingus Charles Mingus
bass, acoustic
Anthony Braxton Anthony Braxton
woodwinds
Eric Dolphy Eric Dolphy
woodwinds
Ornette Coleman Ornette Coleman
saxophone, alto
Archie Shepp Archie Shepp
saxophone
Paul Bley Paul Bley
piano
Steve Lacy Steve Lacy
saxophone, soprano
Karl Berger Karl Berger
vibraphone

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.