Monday, February 27, 2006

CD: Ray Russell - Goodbye Svengali

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Ray Russell - Goodbye Svengali
Cuniform Records Rune 223

Goodbye Svengali is dedicated to ledgendary composer, leader, producer and musician Gil Evans (1912-1988.) I heard about Ray Russell a couple of months ago when I heard one of his songs on a sampler from Wire Magazine. I was blown away by the performance of the title track, with its lone trumpet intro and dark, cool, atmospheric feel and guitar playing that bursts out of the silence like a fireball at night.

The album has some spooky fusion moments, and is at times experimental sounding. Even on the quiet tracks like Without A Trace, and Wailing Wall, the sound of Russell's lone guitar with its otherworldly harmonics, echoing, is sad and majestic at the same time. I love that sort of contradiction in music. If you're expecting straight-ahead jazz, look elsewhere.

Ray's guitar sound can be delicate or indistinguishable from the balance of ferocity and skill of some of the major rock virtuosos, like Jeff Beck.

The sound is first rate, as well. Ray Russell is well known to musicians but not as well known to the public at large. Goodbye Svengali isn't easy listening music by any strecth. It's challenging without suffocating you in it's presentation, which mists around you and is punctuated with flashes of Russell's electric guitar lightning.

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