Selection: The Outer View (Russell)
. . .
Don Ellis, trumpet; Garnett Brown, trombone; Paul Plummer, tenor saxophone; George Russell, piano; Steve Swallow, bass; Pete La Roca, drums; Sheila Jordan, vocals; recorded Plaza Sound Studios, NYC, August 27, 1962
Mordant opening theme, teeming with dissonance and intricate stop-time passages, little solo vignettes from a sequence of different horns, a free-time section sandwiched between a straightahead swing section with rapid-fire piano chordal chops. Is there a melody? If so, it is well hidden in this scrapbook of soundpieces. A classical piano appears briefly, only to evaporate, returning in avant- tinkling, accompanied by seemingly random drum beats. The dissonant ensemble is underscored by rambling piano in different time and key, which merge finally into a theatrical horror-movie soundtrack. The Outer View? I guess that is one view.
The album features a bizarre take on the country music standard “You Are My Sunshine” introducing singer Sheila Jordan – one-time married to pianist Duke Jordan, and confidante of Charlie Parker. A polytonal reworking of Parker’s “Au Privave” occupies another track, continuing Russell’s off-balance presentation of an unfamiliar reading of the familiar.
Whilst not as “likeable” as Russell’s earlier titles (Jazz Workshop, Jazz In The Space Age, Ezz-thetics, The Stratus Seekers, Stratusphunk), The Outer View is perhaps still more accessible than his later work, and will still give your comfort zone a bit of a kicking, You Are My Sunshine, indeed.
Vinyl: Fontana 688 705 ZL
Dutch pressing on Philips Fontana label, of Riverside RM 440 (1962.) Issued in 1965. This record buyer liked to write on the cover, in ink, the date of purchase: December 7, 1966.
Possibly the whole Fontana Marte Röling cover series were issued en masse in the mid-Sixties, some years after the originals, I assume for the European market (and Japan)
This Riverside recording comes in a variety of covers – the concept seems to inspire Twilight Zone retro-futurism. The Mono and Stereo have similar but different covers, creepy, and a later reissue has gone typographically OTT.
“Innovative music” in the mid ’60s called for an innovative to approach to cover design. Which I guess led Fontana (Philips) to commission Dutch artist/designer Marte Röling to create a series of unconventional alternative covers, that link the major artists in the series. Instead of trying to illustrate so-called “new music”, she drew portraits showing the individualistic thinking of the creators of the new music “inside their head”, pictured as iconic figures. Neat idea, elegantly executed.
Russell’s Outer View, keeping company with other exponents of the “new music” genre, including Cecil Taylor, Ted Curson, Paul Bley, Marion Brown, Dewey Redman and John Tchicai.(Rod Levitt I never heard of)
Marte Röling, pictured below (courtesy of Discogs) drawing heavily on a cigar. On her right, Japanese occasional alternative covers (Blood red background for Paul Bley’s album “Blood”, another of those one-second-wonder ideas.. And they changed the pictures in his head, and tattoo on his neck, bizarre)
Though I appreciate the Röling covers, the New Music Thing or New Thing is mostly not my thing, not my cup of tea. I am quite partial to a cup of tea, any tea as long as it’s not Earl Grey. This is my Earl Grey cup of tea music. Call me old-fashioned but I’m still quite partial to the Old Thing – that rhythm, melody and harmony thing. Any other titles in this series anyone can recommend? Play Jazz Critic. What am I missing? Or is it not your cup of tea either? No-one need know but us. Get writing, I’ll pop the kettle on.