Jazz innovator George Russell died at 86 yesterday in Boston of Alzheimer’s complications, the Globe reports. Russell developed a jazz theory that played a key role on landmark records like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Russell’s theory “gives you a lot more freedom and space to hear things,” Davis said.
The theory, rooted in ancient Greek and medieval scales, allowed performers to focus more on melody. Russell developed it while suffering from a tuberculosis relapse that left him “near death”; it’s been used by musicians from Herbie Hancock to U2. Russell composed, among other pieces, the noted Cubana Be/Cubana Bop for Dizzie Gillespie. He won a MacArthur “genius” grant in 1989.