The Roccella Variations’. From ‘George Russell Living Time Orchestra, The London Concert’, 1989 – News, reviews, reports and commentaries from the London jazz scene and beyond



Jon Turney’s 41st Weekly Selections finds a great composer-arranger making the most of an Anglo-American ensemble.

One of the deceased John cumming many good deeds brought Georges russel from the United States to perform with a mixed Anglo-American group, originally for the Arts Council’s Contemporary Music Network. The first visit, in 1986, when the big man was in his early sixties, led to a series of big band tours in the UK and Europe.

And to this wonderful recording by Ronnie Scott, an excellent document. The British – Ian Carr, Andy Sheppard, Pete Hurt, Chris Biscoe, Ashley Slater, Steve Lodder et al, brilliantly rose to the challenge of Russell’s music. And it was difficult, but also immensely satisfying. In tune with the times, he adds to the constantly inventive harmony score a deep interest in rhythm. The two were combined into multi-level music, which was one of the most tightly organized and arranged works anyone has tried to perform on a jazz stage, while still swaying contagiously.

Less swinging at the start of this piece which begins to sound like a lost, luminous, baroque fragment, before switching to a more contemporary mode and offering beautiful solos by Sheppard and Ian Carr. It’s a great way to get into the record, and for the late Russell in general. I’ve listened to it a lot this year, driven by Duncan Heining’s excellent book, and this one is as good as it gets.


Listen to this song on Spotify

More information about this recording on Jon’s Bristol Jazz Log

Read Jon’s introduction to the “52 tracks” series

Week 40. In case you missed it, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

Spotify playlist for the series


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