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Hal Russell: Albert’s Lullabye

Legendary Chicago free-jazz instrumentalist Hal Russell, who died in 1992, appears on these sessions, mostly cut in 1991, with bassist Michael Staron, drummer Rich Shandling and pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow. The selections include a couple of Albert Ayler tunes, “Vibrations” and “Ghosts,” adaptations of “Brahms Lullabye,” here called “Albert’s Lullabye,” the Gregorian chants “Kyrie and Agnus Dei,” and an adaptation of “The Edge of Night” soap-opera theme. There are also three Russell/Staron/Sparrow “spontaneous improvisation(s),” including the twenty-five minute “Who’s There?” and the fifteen-minute “Aural,” both of which are varied in mood.

Russell appears on trumpet, and tenor and soprano sax. Ayler had a big impact on his work, which is uninhibited, passionate and irreverently humorous. “Ghosts” contains Staron’s unaccompanied arco and pizzicato work, on which he employs electronic and percussive effects and extended techniques. He’s a versatile, forward looking and accomplished performer. Staron also contributed his electronic composition “W,” which was recorded in 1979. Sparrow impresses as well; he takes a lot of chances, demonstrating that he can not only pound the piano but also play lyrically. He also interacts intelligently with the other performers.

Originally Published