George Russell: 'Round Midnight
George Russell (piano)
Ezz-thetics (Riverside OJCCD-070-2)
Composed by Thelonious Monk. Arranged by George Russell.
Recorded: New York, May 8, 1961
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
During Thelonious Monk's lifetime, jazzmen widely admired but seldom braved his tunes. "'Round Midnight" was the exception because it resembles a conventional ballad, which allowed musicians to honor Monk without having to cope with his strange melodies and weird chords. Turning this wisdom on its head, George Russell approached "'Round Midnight" unconventionally. During a ghostly one-minute intro, Russell strums inside his piano à la composer Henry Cowell’s The Banshee (1925), while Ellis and Baker manipulate plunger mutes to mimic nightmares at a livery stable. All this resolves into an astonishing 5-minute Eric Dolphy solo, lyrically teetering on the precipice of Free Jazz without plunging into the abyss. A startling and unforgettable performance.
Reviewer: Alan Kurtz