cd review artist: hal russell nrg ensemble & russell... · “tatwas” is multi-tracked...
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CD REVIEW ARTIST: HAL RUSSELL NRG ENSEMBLE & CHARLES TYLER TITLE: GENERATION LABEL: NESSA 25 TUNES: SINUS UP* / POODLE CUT*+ / SPONGE*+ / TATWAS*+ / CASCADE*+ / GENERATION* / THIS FENCE IS A LOVING MACHINE / UNCONTROLLABLE RAGES. 71:39. PERSONNEL: Russell, ts, cnt, shenai, vib, d; Chuck Burdelik, as, ts, cl; Brian Sandstrom*, b, el g, tpt; Curt Bley, b, el b; Steve Hunt, d, vib; Charles Tyler+, bari s; as, cl. 9/9/82, 1/10/81, Chicago, IL. Hal Russell was a Chicago iconoclast who left far too few recordings behind and (3) revives one of the rare documents of his NRG Ensemble. Like Frank Zappa, Spike Jones and the ICP Orchestra, Russell believed that humor had a place in music and in his case, that resulted in slapstick zigzags of free jazz wailing over madly unpredictable rhythms. Sinus Up sounds like a Raymond Scott novelty piece stuck in a locked groove with saxes and vibes chugging away frantically under maddened bass, guitar and vibes solos. The saxophones of Russell, Chuck Burdelik and guest Charles Tyler roar and bellow at length over crashing bass and drums on Poodle Cut. Sponge starts with a heavy melodic bellow from the horns before Brian Sandstroms trumpet sputters over clockwork bass and the band resolves into a driving melody with the three sax players all soloing over slapstick drums and rubbery bass. Tatwas is multi-tracked clarinets and trumpets impersonating a swarm of bees and Generation is Russells attempt at a Gang Of Four-like modern rock song that has not aged well. The CDs big epic is Cascade which begins with a set of ominous fanfares before breaking into a series of solos that includes sweaty tenor from Burdelik, tipsy vibes from Steve Hunt, searing electric guitar by Sandstrom, a demented drum duet from Russell and Hunt, Curt Bley making squawking electrified sounds on his bass and Tyler soaring madly on alto. There are also a couple of bonus tracks done by a earlier quartet version of the Ensemble containing just Russell, Burdelik, Bley and Hunt. Fence is a surprisingly cohesive and pretty ballad featuring flute and cornet that suggests Roscoe Mitchells early work while the long Uncontrollable Rages is full-on tenor screaming contrasted with delicate pauses of vibes and drums.
CD review from Volume 41, No. 1: January issue For more information, go to www.cadencemagazine.com
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