His lines are not so much melodic variation, or even Coltrane-like walls of sound. Instead it is like a Pollock painting mounted with guitar pickups, the sound of explosions. Russell makes it sound as if the guitar is not enough, as if he’s reaching for something wilder, something that can’t be contained within the 6 string cage.
— Jim O Rourke.
Ray Russell is one of our great unsung guitar heroes.
— David Randall – Get Ready To Rock.
He takes in the jazz leanings of the horn players, and then shoves his creaming rock guitar into the thick of jazz. Russell isn’t merely a fine jazz player,but a truly original music thinker and an improvisational force to be reckoned with.
— Thom Jurek – All Music Guide.
The music is exceptional. I’m completely overwhelmed by it. I can’t remember a UK artist’s album, of this type and concept, that has impressed me so much. The writing/arranging/production is just wonderful. This project deserves a full Contemporary Music Network tour. This is already my ‘Best Album of 2006…’ and it’s still 2005! 🙂
— Chrissie Murray – Writer and editor
Russell is a fearsomely gifted player who relies on taste rather than speed, even when teamed up with the likes of fusion legends Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips. Highlights include the slow burn of the opening “Everywhere”, plus a quietly gutsy rendering of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” from Russell in duet with Evans. That this was Gil’s last recorded appearance gives the piece a particular emotional kick. Recommended.
— Peter Marsh BBC Jazz
Let’s just make the statement-Goodbye Svengali is sure to be one of the best jazz related releases this year. If you aren’t already familiar with the talents of this exceptional guitar player, shame on you, but its not too late to discover all he has to offer. An album like this doesnt come around too often folks, dig in and enjoy!
— Pete Pardo – Sea of Tranquility.
Goodbye Svengali does what the best tribute records do. In invoking not only the music but also the soul of an admired musician, it brings out the best in the artist paying tribute. And Russell here is energetic, thoughtful, and most of all, eclectic.
— David Miller – All About Jazz
The CD’s sound is first-rate as well. Ray Russell is well known to musicians, but not as familiar to the public at large, which is missing some really innovative sounds. Goodbye Svengali isn’t easy-listening music by any stretch. It’s challenging, but not suffocating in its presentation. Rather, it mists around you and is punctuated with flashes of Russell’s electric-guitar lightning.
Ray Russell also profited greatly from the attentions of a supremely responsive drummer, Gary Husband. Fusion guitarist goes some way towards categorising Russell, but his solos are packed with much more than the tricksiness and bombast frequently associated with the genre. Blistering single-note runs, sudden variations of texture and an adventurous approach to harmony are all Russell hallmarks, and everything from blues to funk to jazz and even psychedelia is grist to his mill. A packed Friday-night house was given what amounted to a master class in electric-guitar playing by one of the most respected practitioners on the instrument.
— Vortex Review
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).
— Barry Cleveland – Guitar Player.
A timeless album that everybody – guitarists in particular – should analyze carefully, containing gorgeous melodies and most excellent fretwork in the middle of a triangle whose corners are occupied by Jeff Beck, Phil Miller and Yo’ Miles! Touching extremes.
That Ray Russell can play so convincingly across so many styles won’t be news to his fans. However, to many listeners, he’s still something of a well kept secret. Goodbye Svengali is a perfect intro to a true guitar master and a jumping off point for further exploration into Russell’s electric career.
— Todd Whitehead – Goldmine
A review of Goodbye Svengali:On the strength of this CD, it’s a mystery why Ray Russell has been so severely under-recorded throughout his career. As part of an exploratory group of British musicians in the late 1960’s, Russell released several acclaimed experimental jazz fusion albums, but he has made only a handful of recordings under his name since 1973, although he has always been in huge demand (for obvious reasons) as a session player. Unlike countryman and fellow guitarist John McLaughlin, who connected with Miles Davis, founded the Mahavishnu Orchestra and made a name for himself as a jazz fusion pioneer, Russell has remained in the shadows, doing his session work, bringing a few of his projects to small labels, and playing with a number of high quality, but little-known British jazz-rock, fusion and experimental bands.However, Russell did make one influential contact in the 1980’s, playing with legendary bandleader Gil Evans’ British band when Evans toured the U.K. and Europe, and developing a personal friendship with Evans over the years. This recording was put together as homage to Evans (the word Svengali is a nickname given to Evans by baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, the name of a 1972 Evans recording – and an anagram for the name Gil Evans). Gil Evans’ son Miles Evans (named, of course, after Miles Davis) even plays some blistering trumpet on the title track, sounding almost like he’s channeling Davis. Overall, the eleven pieces on this CD do not attempt to break new group stylistically; they are firmly in the jazz funk/fusion tradition, with obvious nods to the great electric Miles Davis bands. Several gorgeous ballads are perhaps more reminiscent of Pat Metheny’s oeuvre, while a solo drone piece, Wailing Wall, has a strong element of Frippertronics (the ambient loop system and style developed by experimental guitarist Robert Fripp).One very touching, personal piece, Charles Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, has Russell improvising over a solo Fender Rhodes piano track recorded by Evans in 1983, which Russell found recently while digging through his tape archives. Relating Russell to “name” guitarists such as Metheny, Fripp, and the highly influential McLaughlin, in no way serves to reduce Russell’s stature as a musician. Rumor has it that Russell also can (or could) shred with the weirdest and wildest, but this CD was not conceived as a post-Hendrix display of monster chops. Nonetheless, Russell’s technical and creative facility is nothing short of jaw-dropping throughout. He twists notes up, down and sideways, executes flawless, intricate runs, and displays an excruciatingly pure electric guitar tone that pierces the heart.
He is also supported on this recording by very capable, long-time musician friends and associates, including drummers Simon Phillips and Gary Husband and bassist Mo Foster, who serve to make the session much more than a guitar showcase. Truly an excellent recording. But please, somebody get Russell in the studio again (and again) so that he can share more of his singular talents with the world.
— Bill Tilland
Since Ray Russell has spent plenty of the past three decades quietly composing award-winning TV soundtracks and shaping his expressive guitar sound to the whims of stars (Dionne Warwick, Art Garfunkel, Van Morrison and many others), it’s perhaps not surprising he lets his hair down when he is the main attraction. Playing two rare solo gigs in the shoebox-sized basement of the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Russell brought a rhythm section powerful enough to have Olympic stadium audiences asking for earplugs. But eventually the music calmed down enough for this unusual artist’s identity – a fusion of raw R&B, Coltrane-era free jazz and seductive lyricism – to infiltrate the room.
Russell was joined by regulars – bass-guitar star Mo Foster and drummer Gary Husband – plus guest keyboardist Jim Watson and trumpeter Rupert Cobb. The latter’s tightly muted phrasing accompanied the first spacious passages. This followed a turmoil of country-lilting funk, interspersed with wailing guitar improv, driven by Husband’s lashing backbeat. Foster’s elegant bass walk then underpinned an impressionistic organ passage, before a taut guitar hook led steadily to another blaze of high-register aerobatics.
Russell’s remarkable tonal palette came into its own in a more tranquil sequence, with tremulous bottleneck effects blending delicately with the trumpet. Then a more jangly, dulcimer-like guitar sound floated on Husband’s subtle cymbal-playing and judicious fills in a fine ballad. Here, Russell’s mix of haunting long tones and impulsive turns occasionally recalled the work of that enigmatic guitar master Roy Buchanan.
John Fordham – The Guardian. Pizza Express September 2012.