March 15, 2006
Guitarist Ray Russell came of age during the late-’60s British music scene, releasing several solo albums, as well as working with various fusion groups, and doing sessions for the likes of John Barry (six James Bond films) and Phil Spector. Throughout the years, Russell has worked with wildly divergent artists—from Tina Turner to Heaven 17 to Gary Moore to Gil Evans—while continuing to create his own music. His early style paralleled that of John McLaughlin, and there is still evidence of McLaughlin’s influence in his current work—but Russell has carved out a stylistic niche for himself that also suggests shades of Robert Fripp, Terje Rypdal, and Jeff Beck.
Goodbye Svengali loosely pays homage to the late Gil Evans (“Svengali” is an anagram of his name), and Evans even appears on a version of “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” constructed from a recording made shortly before his death. Evans’ son Miles also plays trumpet on the title track. Other featured artists include drummers Simon Phillips and Gary Husband, bassists Mo Foster and Anthony Jackson, and keyboardist Tony Hymas. Russell’s playing is beautifully nuanced throughout, ranging from delicate jazz voicings to echo-y Ebow textures to full-on fusion shred, and his compositions embody a harmonic sophistication that attest to a lifetime spent in service to his muse. (Cuneiform).