RAY RUSSELL

"Like contemporaries Sonny Sharrock and Terje Rypdal, Russell makes it sound as if the guitar is not enough, as if he's reaching for something wilder, something that can't be contained within the 6 string cage"
-Jim O'Rourke

Guitarist Ray Russell has been a professional musician since he was 15 and he joined the John Barry Seven (famous for their James Bond soundtracks). Not hugely known to the general public, for over four decades he has worked with artists as diverse as Nucleus, Gil Evans, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Bill Fay, Jack Bruce, Michael Gibbs, Tina Turner, Bryan Ferry and many, many others. His wide-ranging solo career got into gear during the late 60s and can be viewed as a simultaneous and wilder variant of the same path towards electric jazz that Miles Davis and others took during this time, releasing a number of very collectable and ahead of their time albums, and becoming one of the earliest truly 'out' guitarists of the late 60s in the process.


THE CELESTIAL SQUAD
(with Henry Kaiser)



RUNE 403

Guitar summits don't ascend higher than when legendary British free-jazz pioneer and longtime session ace Ray Russell meets the brilliant California avant-improv overachiever and Antarctic diver Henry Kaiser in the realm of The Celestial Squid. With more than countless session and soundtrack performances to his credit, including the early James Bond film scores, Russell is returning to his bone-rattling, noise-rocking roots for the first time since the very early 70s. You'll be shaken and stirred as Kaiser, Russell and eight super friends deliver a no-holds-barred, free-range sonic cage match.

Russell created some of the early '70s' most outrageously outside music, releasing hallmark works of guitar shock-and-awe. Russell's "stabbing, singing notes and psychotic runs up the fretboard have nothing to do with scalular architecture," wrote All Music's Thom Jurek, "but rather with viscera and tonal exploration." Russell anticipated the wildest and most intrepid vibrations of Terje Rypdal, Dave Fuzinski, Sonic Youth, Keiji Haino, Tisziji Muñoz and their boundary-dissolving ilk. Russell is hardly a niche performer, though. Untold millions of music and film fans have actually, if unknowingly, already enjoyed Russell's riffs – at least if they saw any of the James Bond films that John Barry scored, beginning with Dr. No in 1962.

For over 40 years, Russell would not make such exploratory music until West Coast guitar experimentalist Henry Kaiser called him out of the blue and asked if he would be interested in co-leading an ensemble in the style of his '71 masterpiece, Live at the ICA: June 11th 1971. Russell was surprised and delighted by the offer, and readily accepted. Why had he waited so long to once again explore the free-jazz spaceways you might well wonder? Simple – no one had asked him to do so!

So on April 12, 2014, Henry Kaiser and Ray Russell – along with drummers Weasel Walter and William Winant, bassists Michael Manring (electric) and Damon Smith (acoustic), and saxophonists Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief, and Aram Shelton – entered Berkeley, California's Fantasy Studios for a day-long session that resulted in The Celestial Squid, a nearly eighty-minute embryonic journey through the deepest waters and most cosmic heights of improvised music. Except for melodic heads and compositional structures, everything on The Celestial Squid is improvised, down to some astonishing extemporaneous horn arrangements. While The Celestial Squid echoes the raw energy and youthful bravado of Russell's earliest achievements, this music synergizes the combined power and imagination of all ten of these musical masters into a force to be reckoned with

The Celestial Squid press release

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GOODBYE SVENGALI



RUNE 223

Goodbye Svengali is influenced by and dedicated to visionary jazz arranger Gil Evans, and includes one of Gil's final recordings. It is an album that mixes dark fusion, lyrical guitar pieces and icy soundscapes. Ray's playing style can be compared to such great players as Sonny and Terje, as Jim noted, but also to John McLaughlin, John Abercrombie and Jeff Beck! Includes performances by noted U.K. fusion/rock players such as Mo Foster, Gary Husband, Tony Hymas, Simon Phillips and others.

"Ray Russell’s back with his first solo record in 14 years and, man, it’s good. What began as an idea for a series of duets expanded into a much grander project. From a lovely Goodbye Pork Pie Hat with just Russell and Gil Evans (recorded back in the eighties) to the out-and-out rock of Blaize, this is a staggeringly wide-ranging album. There’s some of the free jazz/rock Russell pioneered in the sixties and seventies on Everywhere and in the wild guitar/drums section on the title track. But there’s also a softer, tender side present on Without a Trace and Wailing Wall and a filmic quality to So Far Away. Yet it never sounds cluttered or fragmented. Instead it moves always easily and convincingly through styles and modes. It’s Russell’s sound that dominates but that takes nothing from the bravura playing of Gary Husband and, Russell’s daughter, Amy Baldwin (fabulous on double bass) or from Miles Evans’ touchingly emotional trumpet on Goodbye Svengali. Fusion or jazz/rock rarely sounds this good." – Jazzwise/Duncan Heining

Goodbye Svengali press release

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MEDIA
For press and media: cover art and high resolution images are available below for download (click thumbnail, right-click image and select "Save As.."). Please credit the photographer (when available) and "Courtesy of Cuneiform Records". For more information, click here.

Henry Kaiser and Ray Russell - The Celestial Squid
Ray Russell - Goodbye Svengali

PRESS RELEASES
The Celestial Squid press release
bye Svengali press release

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