Hal Russell

Albert's Lullaby

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This recording is being depicted as the missing link in Russell's discography, posthumously released from sessions done with bassist Mike Staron apart from the NRG Ensemble. Russell's tenor sax or trumpet work is quite beholden to the stance of Ornette Coleman, and Albert Ayler's influence is clear and present. Rick Shandling drums on four of the nine tracks, and Bradley Parker-Sparrow plays piano on another three. Staron's major role in these collective improvisations cannot be overlooked, he is an equal partner firing up Russell's highly spontaneous notions. At his most gargantuan from a compositional standpoint, "Who's There?," at over 25-plus minutes, allows Russell, Staron, and Sparrow to weave in and out of motifs and themes. Door knocking leads to insistent bass and fleeting piano chords, which in turn inspire Russell's trumpet and tenor discourses. Sparrow and Staron get to stretch out briefly as Russell's more hyper-melodic side comes out, Sparrow's cascading pianistics, Russell quoting Ornette's "Dancing in Your Head," and a near polka bass buoy the leader before a peaceful piano segment and bass solo end the piece. "Aural," at almost 15 minutes, has Russell's soft, spoken trumpet more demonstrative, then in marching or dancing patterns. The shorter pieces include the quasi-free bop workout with bass and drums, "Edge of Night," no-time squawking, and singing sax and bass on the title cut, and Ayler's "Vibrations" sporting interactive call and response between drums and sax. "Kyrie & Agnus Dei" has Russell's bleating trumpet. It's inquisitive at times, at others probing, while the minute-plus "To Groove" with Staron and Sparrow starts with percussion sounds, a two-note bass beat, and a development far too brief. Staron goes solo on a bass interpretation of Ayler's "Ghosts" with bird-like echoes at the end. He also presents a live, modular Moog synthesizer composition, "W," starting with whooshing sounds, then a rhythmic 5/4 static short, sparse and dense space oscillations, then a whoosh landing. Russell's staunch individualism in creative improvised music was far too infrequently documented, so for fans this will prove an invaluable piece of the big puzzle.

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