George Russell: The Outer View (1962) Fontana

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)

Collector’s Corner

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)

Professor Jazz

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.






13 thoughts on “George Russell: The Outer View (1962) Fontana

  1. Had a few of these – not the Dutch Fontana ones, which these days I’d guess are highly sought and therefore bought highly. Mine are all Japanese and manufactured by Victor. I recall some talk on this forum that the Japanese Riverside pressings by Victor did not live up to the standards that make many of that countries’ vinyl editions considered to be top shelf for an audiophile. Sadly I’m not one of those – not having a high end system and ears that have lost some high end. Anyway, I pulled out my Edge by the Ted Curson Ouartet (Ted’s Edge not mine). Noticed that I’d written 27:+ minutes for the music on each side. Long, and with that Victor element it may not be for the audiophile. But it works for me.

  2. I love this record. It helps that It came out when I was young and just starting to listen to more adventurous jazz. It also helps that all these contemporary “avant garde” guys were playing around New York in “concerts” where underage kids could go. I heard A LOT of this music live in the early sixties. Russell always seemed like the intellectual of the movement. Remember, this was the time when the fight to end the war and gain civil rights was becoming more militant. This was reflected in the music, but Russell always seemed to have a textual underpinning for all he did. You can listen to “Sunshine” in that context. Sort of the outside music you could play for your parents. (I never tried it).

  3. for some reason any tea is good except Earl Grey for me too but, New Thing is a very good tea.taste and retaste, ask yourself why these men played this way when no-one wanted to listen, you’ll love it.

  4. This is what good jazz composition is all about – it takes the listener on a journey with surprises around every corner. No toe-tapping, melodic comfort zone here. The covers are interesting and probably improved the sales of music that was unpopular the time.

  5. I love the covers on these but know very few of the records. The Dollar Brand is a very good live set, and surprisingly well recorded, I seem to recall, although my copy is a letter reissue on Arista. Paul Bley Trio’s TOUCHING is also excellent, but again mine is a later reissue.

  6. You could possibly remove that ink on the back cover. Take a bit of gel hand sanitizer on a paper towel and rub gently. The alcohol should break down the ink and you should be able to rub it off the cover. Did this with a lot of records i got one time that had some writing on the covers, after I was done you could barely tell anything was there. This works especially well on laminated covers, which this, being a U.K. issue, should have one.

  7. Not my cup of tea either. Most of these guys were searching and trying something else. But most of them failed. I always had the impression they were all kind of unhappy and unlucky. But at least they tried to show how different they are.
    Some of you might think differently. Accepted. No problem. Just not my cup of tea 😉

  8. Well… I’ve got to admit that I’d never heard that piece of music. It’s certainly an interesting ride. Reminds one almost of the musical equivalent of a funhouse, which ends with trying to walk across a busy intersection full of car horns beeping at you all at once, producing quite an uncomfortable dissonance, that you oddly want to repeat. The drum sounds on that recording sounded phenomenally lifelike to me. I could picture the room. Thanks for the overall confusion.

  9. I was getting into jazz when these came out and the covers put me off, never mind the music. I always like the Dollar Brand and was interested in Rufus but, despite thinking that Ezz-thetics is one of the best albums ever, I never got to grips with this one, part from You Are My Sunshine, which has a certain charm.

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