George Russell, a jazz innovator and collaborator with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, has died in Boston, his publicist said Tuesday. He was 86.
"Russell died yesterday evening in Boston from complications with Alzheimer's," Sue Auclair said.
Russell's website describes him as a "hugely influential, innovative figure in the evolution of modern jazz, the music's only major theorist, one of its most profound composers, and a trail blazer whose ideas have transformed and inspired some of the greatest musicians of our time."
He was born in 1923 in Cincinnati and got his musical start playing drums in the Boy Scouts.
His most important musical education came in 1941 when he was hospitalized for tuberculosis treatment and learned the fundamentals of harmony from another patient.
In 1947 he had a premier of "Cubano Be/Cubano Bop" at Carnegie Hall, the first fusion of jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Later he developed theories of tonal organization and published a text book in 1953 that is seen as a seminal work to this day.
In the mid-50s he won recognition for "The Jazz Workshop," an album said to anticipate jazz-rock sounds that came 20 years later.
The success meant he no longer had to work extra jobs at lunch counters and at Macy's toy shop in New York. He was commissioned to write music for the inaugural Brandeis Jazz Festival in 1957 where he worked with a who's who of New York jazz artists.
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