Ray Russell (born April 4, 1947) is an English jazz-rock guitarist from Islington who released two albums with his namesake quartet on CBS in 1968 and 1969. During the early 1970s, he appeared on albums by Bob Downs, Michael Gibbs, and Bill Fay amid a two-album stint with the Scottish brass-rock ensemble Rock Workshop. Between 1972 and 1975, Russell recorded an album apiece with the art-rock combos Running Man, Mouse, and Chopyn. In 1977, he released the album Ready Or Not on DJM Records. During the subsequent two decades, his name appeared on numerous instrumental albums on Bruton Music and other library-specialty labels.
1969: Dragon Hill
Augmented by a cast including saxman Lyn Dobson (Locomotive, Keef Hartley Band) and veteran trumpeter Harry Beckett, Russell unleashed his licks across five frenzied cuts on Dragon Hill.
Misty keys and chordal shards open the mammoth “Dragon Hill”, which ultimately veers between freeform guitar/piano solos and structural bebop/blues sketches; replete with the high-end, atonal strumming which becomes Russell’s signature.
He turns to more fluid licks on “Something in the Sky”, a jitterbug swept into the brassy winds of Beckett and Dobson.
Bassist Ron Mathewson funkifies “Can I Have My Paperback Back” for the interplay of Russell and pianist Roy Fry, who trades his Steinway for Rhodes on this number.
Alternately, Russell takes a powder for most of “We Lie Naked in Winter Snow”, a candlelight exchange between Mathewson and Fry.
The full-cast is summoned for “Mandala”, in which the lightning lines of Russell are squared by a brass theme of such aplomb it would smite Chicago or Colosseum.
1971: Rites and Rituals
That latter brass/rock congregate – whose core members had played with Russell under the tutelage of Graham Bond – paved ground which lured Russell on his next outing, Rites and Rituals.
The low-end strum which opens “Sarana” is swiftly raised by the layering of trombone, trumpet and sax; an assemblage soon knocked aside by Russell’s newly-manicured wall-of-distortion.
Furthermore, “Sarana” echoes the amplified strides of John McLaughlin – another Bond alumnus spanning the jazz/rock divide – with Russell torching thirteen minutes of freeform; lassoed fleetingly at brass/rock intervals.
Matching lengths but not ideas, the title-piece meanders amidst muffled bleats and coy noodling; the solid tune at 9:10 being all too brief.
Contrastingly front-loaded is the gargantuan “Abyss”, whose dissonance runs dry by the halfway mark.
Redemption is served in the final number, “Cradle Hill”, where the clashing currents of guitar, trombone and cello careen through a heady five-minute run.
- Turn Circle (1968 • Ray Russell Quartet)
- Dragon Hill (1969)
- Rites and Rituals (1971)
- June 11th 1971: Live at the ICA (1971)
- Secret Asylum (1973)
- Ready Or Not (1977)
- City Limits (1981 • Ray Russell / Mike Moran)
- Street Level (1981 • Alan Parker / Mike Moran / Ray Russell / Frank Ricotti)
- Points of Impact (1984 • Ray Russell / Nick Ingman / Mike Vickers)
- The Best of Life (1984 • Trevor Bastow / Ray Russell / Keith Roberts)
- Brave New World (1985 • Brian Bennett / Alan Hawkshaw / Ray Russell)
- In Search of Excellence (1986 • Ray Russell / Warren Bennett)
- Atmosphere 1 – Impressions (1987 • Alan Hawkshaw / Ray Russell)
- Atmosphere 2 – Reflections (1987 • Zack Laurence / Ray Russell)
- Atmosphere 4 – Illusions (1987)
- Childscape (1987)
- Montage of Power (1987 • Ray Russell / Brian Bennett)
- Atmosphere 11 – Strangescape (1989)
- A Table Near the Band (1990)
- Goodbye Svengali (2006)
- The Composer’s Cut (2006)
- Now, More Than Ever (2013)
- The Celestial Squid (2015 • Henry Kaiser & Ray Russell)
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