Arthur Russel was ahead of his time. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, the film Wild Combination will ably introduce you to one of the lost gems of late 20th Century American music. A composer and cellist, Russell was an active member of the downtown New York experimental and disco scenes thriving in the 1980’s and left behind a massive body of recordings upon his untimely death to AIDS in 1992.
Sasha Frere-Jones describes Russell this way in The New Yorker:
This story begins, as many good ones do, with a gay man from Oskaloosa playing cello in a closet in a Buddhist seminary. It ends with a gentle and brilliant musician dying in New York long before his time. In between, the cellist, Arthur Russell, wrote orchestral music, produced disco hits, and recorded a body of solo cello-and-voice songs that fit somewhere between lullabies and art songs. The structural sprawl and harmonic flux common to what has come to be called “intelligent dance music” (a phrase Russell would have hated) and the songs of rock bands like Wilco and Radiohead characterized his music from the start.
Rounding out the night is Portsmouth’s Nat Baldwin, an upright bass player and composer very much in the vein of Arthur Russell. Nat has been a member of The Dirty Projectors and Tigersaw in addition to a handful of solo releases and collaborative gigs. He’s be playing a set of solo bass and voice compositions with an Arthur Russell song or two thrown in for tribute.