Ross Russell RIP
On January 31, one off the icons of the West Coast
Be Bop scene, Dial Records founder Ross Russell died at age 90.
Russell, long a touchstone for those who like to
grouse about exploitation of jazz musicians (in his case a largely unjust accusation),
founded Dial in 1946 out of his Tempo Record Shop in LA. Dial's most famous artist was
Charlie 'Bird' Parker, but other greats found their home on the label, including
Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray ('The Chase') as well as Dodo Marmorosa,
Howard McGhee and others.
Russell first recorded Parker soon after the
legendary West Coast Be Bop excursion with Dizzy Gillespie to Billy Bergs. Bird's Dial
recordings ranged from the pained, heroin-soaked take of 'Lover Man' to the brilliant
'Relaxing At Camarillo' (recorded soon after his taking the cure at the California State
Hospital of the same name).
Russell picked up Dial and moved it to New York City
in the late 40's, and continued to issue jazz (and for a time classical) discs into the
Russell was also a writer. His one novel 'The Sound'
(long out of print but worth a search) is basically a jazz inflected pulp novel (loosely
based on Bird), but makes for interesting reading.
His biography of Bird, 'Bird Lives: The High Life
and Hard Times of Charlie "Yardbird' Parker' was published in 1973, and though it has
a reputation for being less that 100% accurate, it is an enthusiastic tribute to a jazz
legend. He also wrote 'Jazz Style In Kansas City and the Southwest', a historical overview
of the early days of the big bands