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The secret masterpieces of jazz - Ezz-thetics (1961)

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The secret masterpieces of jazz - Ezz-thetics (1961)

Jazz is a diverse terrain, so people like to stick to safe landmarks, Kind Of Blue and Saxophone Colossus. But you could easily miss something huge. Hans-Jürgen Schaal presents unsung highlights of jazz history.

George Russell Sextet - Ezz-thetics (1961)

Because a chronic illness prevented him from playing the drums, George Russell once switched to composing. He was not interested in the small-minded, after all, he was the son of a music professor. He was interested in how to fill vertical spaces with clay scales. Or how to cross bebop with Stravinsky. Russell became the father of modal jazz and invented an amused system for converting all chords into Lydian modes. In practice, he discovered completely new connections between the harmonies and thoroughly turned a number of jazz standards upside down.

It sounded most exciting and hottest between 1960 and 1962. Modal jazz was still new and swinging and Russell had a high-proof sextet for which he even sat down at the piano. The climax was the explosive album "Ezz-thetics" - the only one with the brilliant brass front from Don Ellis (trumpet), Dave Baker (trombone) and Eric Dolphy (alto sax + bass clarinet). They were three primal, bubbling virtuosos, each with their own tonal theory in mind. The jazziest, most compact seminar in music history. Exciting lectures, gripping examples.

The repertoire is also tough. It starts with “Ezz-thetic”, Russell's most famous piece (1951), an abstract, pantonal reinterpretation of “Love For Sale”, and with “Nardis”, Miles Davis' enigmatic ballad, which here sounds even more mysterious thanks to a fantastic Lydian translation . "Lydiot" - Russell said himself with a wink - is a bebop with a monk-percussive piano interlude by the band leader. The adventurous “Thoughts” almost resembles a small wind symphony at changing speeds. Baker's "Honesty", a kind of hard bop blues theme, alternates between up-tempo and out-of-tempo. And the most famous was Monk's "’ Round Midnight ", the big Dolphy feature in Russell's clothing, a mysteriously abysmal finale to a jazz festival of sensations.


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