If George Russell were gracing us today here on Earth with his presence on June 23, 2020, we would be joining in celebration of his 97th birthday. In his honor, this blog post pays reverence to a true human being, a vertical man, an innovator, composer, band-leader, music educator and theoritician who devoted his life's work to sharing the deepest insights into what the music itself is telling us about its own self-organization and unity, entitled "George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization - the art and science of tonal gravity."
First, a preface with two quotes:
“Though his pieces were direct offshoots of his Lydian theories, there is nothing the slightest bit doctrinaire about them…It is a mystery why Russell’s work has not become a standard part of the jazz canon, or why his works have not been rediscovered by the Jazz repertory movement.” - written by National Jazz Museum in Harlem Artistic Director Loren Schoenberg
(The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a thriving center for jazz that stimulates hearts and minds, and reaches out to diverse audiences to enjoy this quintessential American music. Its mission is to preserve, promote and present jazz by inspiring knowledge, appreciation and the celebration of jazz locally, nationally and internationally.) https://www.jmih.org/
and this birthday tribute to George Russell from an article in the British daily newspaper "The Guardian":
"When composer George Russell died in 2009, plenty of the world’s musicians and listeners remained indifferent to his achievements - or were still scratching their heads about them - close on 60 years after his revolutionary methods began transforming jazz. But plenty of others - Ornette Coleman and Jan Garbarek among them - knew exactly why he mattered. Russell didn’t believe that European music theory, with its roots in the major/minor scale system, and the cadential "urge" of its seven notes toward resolutions, could say much that was useful about jazz. So he shifted the emphasis from cadences and chords to the drifting modes of an updated medieval church music, to notions of "ingoing and outgoing" or "gravitational pull" rather than "tension and resolution". His work inspired the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Gil Evans and Ornette Coleman, and it inspires new artists still..."
George Russell epitomizes the artist-poet in the truest sense. Two qualities that best exemplify his essence in this way are paragon and verticality.
PARAGON - The level of being
A model of excellence or perfection of a kind; a peerless example.
An unflawed diamond weighing at least 100 carats.
Paragon derives from the Italian literal meaning "touchstone," referring to a black stone that was used in olden times to judge the purity of gold or silver.
a person or thing that is perfect or has an extremely large amount of a particular good characteristic:
a true companion; fellow; mate.
a test of excellence or superiority.
To go beyond; excel; surpass.
VERTICALITY - the state of being
being in a upright position or direction relating to or situated at the vertex;
being in the same direction as the axis.
The highest point; placed in the zenith,
Point in the heavens directly overhead in the celestial sphere toward which or from which the common motion of a group of stars is directed.
occupying the highest place.
The mountain top.
Maestro Russell taught us the vertex is the Lydian Tonic, the center of Tonal Gravity.
As he elucidates in the following excerpt from a radio interview, may he continue to reap the spiritual blessings of his life's work as it lives on.
Those of us you've touched continue to send you our love, eternally.
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