George Russell: The Jazz Workshop (1956) RCA ’62 2nd Edition

Selection: Concerto For Billy The Kid  (Russell)

. . .


Art Farmer (trumpet) Hal McKusick (flute, alto sax) Bill Evans (piano) Barry Galbraith (guitar) Milt Hinton (bass) Joe Harris (drums) recorded NYC, March 31, October 17 & 21, 1956

Artist of Note: The (fairly) young Bill Evans, age 27, a few minor appearances on record previously, the 1956 Russell Smalltet would give him major exposure, and open the door to Riverside recording (New Jazz Conceptions, 1956),  the following year a stint with Mingus (East Coasting, 1957) and two years later he would join the Miles Davis Sextet (Jazz Tracks, 1958, Kind of Blue,1959) and his continued meteoric rise through the Bill Evans Trio with Scott Lafaro (1959-61).


Twelve tracks, a few forgettable, many unforgettable. A bewildering parade of ensemble pieces, hoe-down, rhumba, big-band, contrapuntal lines and stop-start rotating time signatures,  workshop excursions, from the writing and arranging skills of George Russell.

The selection, Concerto for Billy The Kid, (the young Bill Evans is  Billy The Kid) is an extraordinary piece, an exciting  composed backcloth which showcases a Bill Evans I hadn’t heard before. Bill Evans, not the romantic-lyrical voice of Waltz For Debby, Evans is rapid-fire Tristano/Powell full-on commando attack, elongated melodic lines and rollercoaster spills and thrills driven by a relentless energy that shows no respite: cling on for the ride.

The asymmetrical horn-riffs weave in and out of the time signature. McCusick is a fine altoist voice  somewhere between Art Pepper and Paul Desmond but more swinging. Art Farmer provides richly-textured trumpet tone. The combined players provide a scored brass backbone, mashed-up riffs that syncopate with rhythmic precision and variety.This piece is extraordinary,  I come back to it again and again. How come I didn’t know about something this good ?

Do you have other tracks that are favourites?

Vinyl: RCA 2nd edition 1962.

Great stuff, RCA Victor second issue. A few crackles, but generally a fine recording of fine music.

Collector’s Corner

Everyone has their most beautiful records, gathering oohs and aahs from collecting friends. Isn’t it a beauty? Sharp corners, flawless glossy laminate, pristine, no writing on the cover, no storage damage, perfect, mint covers.

Sickening, isn’t it?  

A chance email from a reader prompted a new idea, a new theme: The LJC Chamber of Horrors, where readers can show off not their best, but the worst  condition albums in their collection.  Not just any old album, it must be a premium collectable record, which originally had beautiful original cover, whose beauty previous owners failed to preserve it. Inner  beauty, but outside, now The Beast.

I’ll start the ball rolling, with three of my precious favourite records where I bit the bullet, and adopted a much-wanted but seriously misused album cover for the love of the music within.But first, another horror story.  Just last week a good friend received the following record following through the post:

That is how it arrived, a billhook through the package, that scarred the vinyl. My inner psychologist says this is no accident. Some malignant individual, possibly under the influence of the Evil Silver Disc or its more evil twin the Devil-Download,  was provoked by the admonition – Handle With Care: “Vinyl? I’ll teach you vinyl-lovers a lesson! Take that!”

Your  stories or picture contributions welcome. Share your pain. Schadenfreude.

The LJC Chamber of Horrors

BN 84061 Donald Byrd at The Half Note

What happens to an original laminated cover when encased in a rigid plastic sleeve which, over several decades,  formed a vacuum seal  with the laminate. Taking the cover out of the sleeve left half the laminate bonded to the sleeve.

Next up, careless handling, no excuse, my office, now!

London American, Byrd’s Word

That beautiful London American cover, with a chunk of Byrd’s leg amputated, my grey card prosthetic in its place. How could they be so careless?

Felsted, Chet Baker, I Get Chet.

Final entry, rare as hen’s teeth, the cheesecake cover on Decca Felsted, Chet Baker I Get Chet. How could anyone not look after this lady, mother wouldn’t approve. She Gets Chet, what more could you ask?

Am I the only one who has an eternal battle with the “Condition is King”? Collector.  Over to you. Fellow collectors, we will feel your pain (or at least, will share it, then probably snicker). Send your photos and stories to


Subject line: Chamber of Horrors.


LJC reader Nick tells me this story:

I once purchased a record with a good chunk missing from the record mailer. I opened the LP & took a look, then celebrated the fact that the LP had been spared much too soon. I took the record out of the sleeve & went to place it on my turntables platter, & then stared in horror when the LP actually fell into 2 pieces! Right down the middle too! There must have been enough of a connection left in the vinyl for me to get it from the sleeve to the platter without noticing the damage at first. Right down the middle I tell you! Truly horrifying!!!

Reader Charles shared this slightly dog-eared copy of Saxophone Colossus, which saved him a small fortune on this iconic record.




Aaron got this




16 thoughts on “George Russell: The Jazz Workshop (1956) RCA ’62 2nd Edition

  1. Russell’s composition “Ezz-thetic” was first recorded by Lee Konitz with Miles Davis in 1951. It was first issued on New Jazz 78 NJ 743, then Prestige 78 PR 843, and then On Prestige 10-inch LP PRLP 116. I have all three issues, plus a CD.

  2. I love all the Russells I have:

    The Jazz Workshop
    Jazz in the Space Age
    The Stratus Seekers

    But I especially love Jazz in the Space Age, which I still think his most ambitious record — very Gil Evans-ish, beautifully textured (the tuned drums and percussion are a delight) and the paired talents of Evans and Bley, of course.

    But I also love Gil Evans’ version of Stratusphunk on Out of the Cool, where the brass section tongue-slaps the melody. Exquisitely funky.

  3. George Russell’s All About Rosie from the Modern Jazz Center, Brandeis Jazz Festival album contains a brilliant Evans solo.

  4. i can live with a damaged cover if the vinyl is rare and excellent. they can be replaced. that said, it does sadden me. they are easy to take care of. if only prior owners had understood the value they would have. sigh.

    in any case, i chanced upon this record about a year ago, read the back, and scooped it up immediately. it really is quite good.

  5. I once bought 3 LPs from New Zealand. After traveling unscathed half way round the world, they were undone by an idiotic British postman. I wasn’t at home, so he helpfully plonked the package between my two recycling bins at the side of the house.

    You guessed it, it rained, and in the time it took me to notice the package, capillary action caused the death of the sleeve of Sonny Rolllins Volume 1 (not an original, but still…)

    Leaving aside the fact that he didn’t leave a card to let me know he’d even left the package, he could have placed the package in the watertight cardboard recycling bin. Twat

  6. My biggest peeve is the record stores who put damaging price tags right on the cover of a high price record. God forbid you take it off – GASH!

    Worst recent example – I found an original pressing of The Best of Muddy Waters (OG, Mono) on Chess Records. In FANTASTIC shape. They put a price tag on the top right corner. Someone had already started to peel to see if it would ruin. It did. Big white gash, top right corner.

  7. oh, my.

    that whole album is just wonderful.

    if you liked it, there are about 7 others from Russell’s “US period” (before he went to Europe in 1964) that are close to as equally wonderful or AS wonderful.

    If you are curious, I’ll let you know my favorites.

    I enjoy your writings. Thank you

      • I can’t give a whole list but “Ezz-thetic” is absolutely brilliant and the best Russell set I’ve heard. Using his famed Lydian scale, Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis, Steve Swallow. Fantastic.

      • My copy of Jazz Workshop is a French 1970s reissue which someone helpfully decided to retitle Ezz-thetic”!
        I have five George Russell LPs if I include the Jan Garbarek / Terje Rypdal LP he produced in 1969. I prefer his work to that of Gil Evans perhaps because it’s more west coast and gritty.
        Impossible to rank in any order as his later work is so very different. Bit like being asked to rank your favourite cheeses and boiled sweets. I like everything I’ve heard from George Russell so far:

        Jazz Workshop
        Esoteric Circle (Garbarek / Rypdal)
        New York N.Y.
        Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature

  8. I have always snubbed the 2nd edition because it came always in stereo, which had to be fake stereo, since we are still in the mono only era. Interesting to see yours is mono!
    Early Bill Evans is a real treat indeed.

  9. I have this experience as well. I got my hands on a VG++ copy of a 6 Eyes mono copy of Miles Davis KOB. Paid $60 for it and felt I got a great deal. It arrived via the US post office cracked in half. The seller hadn’t placed insurance on it, so I justed suffered the loss, but man was I sad about that for a long time. I finally bought another mono copy, but I am not certain it was good as the one that got damaged.

  10. I see damaged covers as an opportunity to pick up records on the cheap. If the vinyl is NM and the cover only VG then there are some bargains to be had.

    • I’ve found lots of great records this way. In some cases, if a distressed cover is unpresentable, I will avoid. If the cover slick is intact and the back is trashed, I will pick it up.
      I’ve found a few categories of states of distress:
      -Radio station copies with call letters (KUSF) written large in “permanent” marker. Mostly avoided, but I’ve saved a few, especially where the cover slick is glossy and nonabsorbant. Sticker labels are near impossible to remove so I will pass.
      -Private owners who use pencils, pens, or “permanent” markers to show possession. If discrete, I’ll pick it up. Same deal with glossy slicks, but in this case I take interest in the record’s history, it’s chain of ownership, with examples of penmanship quality long since gone. Reads to me like an old book.
      -Split seams are no problem for me either. Most collectors keep their records and covers in a protective sleeve. The cover stays in its sleeve and stays presentable and intact.
      In the end, it’s really all about the music for me, but I’ll admit to being a sucker for a well designed cover.
      So you have on the other hand, a Reid Miles layout on a classic Blue Note, or a David Stone Martin drawing on an old Clef, or a Willam Clayton photo on a Pacific Jazz cover are valuable artifacts in and of themselves, regardless of the music.

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