Friday, October 23, 2009

Ray Russell and the Electric Guitar of Adventure

Originally posted on November 29, 2007

Electric guitarist, composer and record producer Ray Russell is hardly a household name. Yet he has been on countless sessions and been a driving force behind the music scene for many years. It is his role as electric/avant/jazz guitarist that most concerns us on this blog today. From the period 1968 through the ‘80s, Russell led a series of jazz groups of an experimental nature, combining psychedelic rock with jazz and avant improv.

A fascinating couple of CDs provide a look at those years: Ray Russell Live at the I.C.A./Retrospective (2CD Moikai) and Rites and Rituals (CBS). He and a set of English improvisers cover all kinds of ground on these recordings. Not only does Russell have an extraordinary flexibility in his playing but his writing is quite challenging and seems to get more interesting the more you listen. Warning, though, this is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Electric guitarists that appreciate people with a bit of courage and lots of talent will most likely find something in all this.

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