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This CD presents two original RCA/Bluebird albums from 1956: "George Russell Smalltet!" (1956) paired with "Hal McKusick’s Jazz Workshop" plus 4 Bonus Tracks. One of the most important and influential composers, arrangers, theorists and conductors in contemporary jazz, this release includes the three different 1956 sessions that mark George Russell’s complete recording legacy with Bluebird as a leader. In addition to these dates, this CD also includes the two different sessions set under the leadership of alto saxophonist and flautist Hal McKusick with compositions and arrangements by George Russell as bonus tracks. All recorded in New York City.
A brilliant "experimental" album featuring elaborate and rhythmically complex compositions by jazz academician George Russell performed by an large ensemble, and featuring Bill Evans on piano and Fender Rhodes. Very psychedelic and groovy. Pianist Bill Evans' second and final Columbia album was a rematch of sorts with composer-arranger George Russell; Evans had been on a couple of Russell's more significant albums of the late '50s. Russell's lengthy and episodic work "Living Time" (which has eight "events") features crowded ensembles as played by Evans' trio plus 19 musicians (including two additional keyboardists). Despite the major names in the "backup group" (including the reeds of Jimmy Giuffre, Sam Rivers and Joe Henderson), the focus throughout is on Evans' acoustic and electric keyboards.
Leon Russell's accolades are monumental in a number of categories, from songwriting (he wrote Joe Cocker's "Delta Lady") to session playing (with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, just to name a few) to his solo work. Unfortunately, it's the last category that never really attracted as much attention as it should have, despite a multitude of blues-based gospel recordings and piano-led, Southern-styled rock albums released throughout the 1970s. Leon Russell and the Shelter People is a prime example of Russell's instrumental dexterity and ability to produce some energetic rock & roll. Poignant and expressive tracks such as "Of Thee I Sing," "Home Sweet Oklahoma," and "She Smiles Like a River" all lay claim to Russell's soulful style and are clear-cut examples of the power that he musters through his spirited piano playing and his voice. His Dylan covers are just as strong, especially "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "It Takes a Lot to Laugh," while "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "It's a Hard Rain Gonna Fall" have him sounding so forceful, they could have been Russell's own.