George Russell: All About Rosie


All About Rosie


George Russell (leader)


The Birth of the Third Stream (Columbia/Legacy CK 64929)

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George Russell (leader), Bill Evans (piano), Barry Galbraith (guitar), Art Farmer (trumpet), John LaPorta (alto sax), Hal McKusick (tenor sax), Teddy Charles (vibes),

Louis Mucci (trumpet), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Jim Buffington (French horn), Robert DiDomenica (flute), Manuel Zegler (bassoon), Joe Benjamin (bass), Ted Sommer (drums)


Composed by George Russell


Recorded: New York, June 10, 1957


Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

George Russell's contribution to the 1957 Brandeis University Jazz Festival of the Arts is his masterpiece. Initially known as a drummer and arranger/composer for bands led by Benny Carter, Artie Shaw, Claude Thornhill and Buddy DeFranco, Russell spent several years developing a scale and harmonic system based on the idea that the Lydian scale could have its own series of subscales, which would create more musical possibilities for improvisers and composers. Russell illustrated his ideas, called The Lydian Chromatic Concept, with his contributions to Hal McKusick's RCA Victor album Jazz Workshop, and then his own album in the same series. Reviews on both were ecstatic, and the Brandeis commission followed soon after.

"All About Rosie" is based "on a motif taken from an Alabama Negro children's song-game entitled 'Rosie, Little Rosie,'" according to Russell. The work is in three movements, the first of which introduces Russell's take on the melody. The developmental section has the brass and saxes playing improvisational-sounding lines over an ostinato figure in the rhythm instruments (although guitarist Galbraith's part is written like a horn and not a chordal instrument, common in Russell's music), while bars in two and three alternate in an irregular pattern. Eventually all of this comes to a head as the movement ends abruptly. Movement two is bluesy, with LaPorta and McKusick the main solo voices (based on the tempo, one envisions our heroine in a strip club). Movement three commences in the same tempo as the first, and this movement is the only one with improvised solos, starting with a young Bill Evans. The pianist studied the Lydian Concept with Russell, and his solo is one of the finest of his career. Other solos by LaPorta, Farmer, Charles and McKusick lead to a recap of the beginning of movement one cutting suddenly to the end of that movement for an explosive ending.

"All About Rosie" is that rarity: a composition using the language of jazz in a concert setting that speaks in a familiar yet modern language. Russell would reorchestrate the piece for the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band in 1961, and in some ways that performance is even more impressive. "All About Rosie" is most assuredly one of the high points of American concert music regardless of genre.

Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof


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