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Night Lights Classic Jazz

When Russell Met Baker

David BakerIn the summer of 1959 a 27-year-old David Baker and several bandmates from Indianapolis attended the Lenox School of Music in Lenox, Massachusetts. There they met George Russell, a jazz composer and theorist in his mid-30s who had first gained renown in the late 1940s for his compositions “Cubana-Be, Cubana-Bop” and “A Bird in Igor’s Yard,” and who had published a book about his progressive jazz ideas and theories called The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. Russell had recorded several highly noteworthy albums in the 1950s, including Jazz Workshop and New York, New York, and was looking to form his own small group. Baker and his colleagues were young, energetic, and ready to embrace new musical modes of thinking, despite their roots in bebop.

George RussellIn the next year and a half, after intensive rehearsals with Russell in Indianapolis, the George Russell Sextet–comprising Russell, bassist Chuck Israels, and the nucleus of David Baker’s Indianapolis group–Baker on trombone, David Young on tenor sax, Al Kiger on trumpet, and Joe Hunt on drums–played a well-received three-week gig at New York’s Five Spot club, toured the Midwest, and recorded three albums. The results–At the Five Spot, Stratusphunk, and the rarely-heard Kansas City–can be experienced on this edition of Night Lights.

Music Heard On This Episode

Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)
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Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)

Notes: Opening theme

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Theme
George Russell — In Kansas City (Decca, 1961)

Notes: Composed by George Russell.

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Swingdom Come
George Russell — At the Five Spot (Verve, 1960)

Notes: Composed by George Russell.

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121 Bank Street
George Russell — At the Five Spot (Verve, 1960)

Notes: Composed by David Baker

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Stratusphunk
George Russell — Stratusphunk (Riverside, 1960)

Notes: Composed by George Russell

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Kentucky Oysters
George Russell — Stratusphunk (Riverside, 1960)

Notes: Composed by David Baker.

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War Gewesen
George Russell — In Kansas City (Decca, 1961)

Notes: Composed by David Baker.

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Rhymes
George Russell — In Kansas City (Decca, 1961)

Notes: Composed by Carla Bley.

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Tune Up
George Russell — In Kansas City (Decca, 1961)

Notes: Composed by Miles Davis.

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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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