Born 1954, London; guitar.
John Russell got hold of his first guitar in 1965 and began playing in and around London from 1971. His involvement with the Free Music scene came early, from 1972 onwards, and in such places as The Little Theatre Club, Ronnie Scott’s, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Musicians’ Co-Op and the London Musicians’ Collective. From 1974 his work extended into teaching, broadcasts (radio and television) and touring (continuing) in the United Kingdom and abroad, including Austria, Belgium, Canada; Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland.
In 1981, he founded Quaqua, a large bank of improvisers put together in different combinations for specific projects and in 1987 helped to set-up Acta Records with John Butcher and Phil Durrant. In 1988 he was the co-founder of MOPOMOSO, London’s longest running concert series featuring mainly improvised music.
He has said that, ‘Since my early involvement with free improvisation as a way of making music, I have moved closer to the realisation that this is the best way for me to work as a musician, bringing together the intellectual and the intuitive with the practical in the creation of a music that is unique to a specific time and place. I also believe that playing solo, in long term and less permanent groups, all have particular things to offer the improviser and I have tried to exploit all three areas whilst developing existing traditions and juxtaposing previously unrelated areas in an attempt to provide a fertile ground for improvising.’
As opportunities permit, he has extended this approach to collaborate with creative practitioners from other disciplines, i.e. poetry, composition, theatre and performance art.
Apart from solo playing, current work includes Butcher/Durrant/Russell trio, the Chris Burn Ensemble, duos with Stefan Keune, Roger Turner, Phil Minton, Gina Southgate, Evan Parker, Hugh Davies and Luc Houtkamp and London Air Lift with Evan Parker, John Edwards and Mark Sanders, as well as numerous ad hoc meetings.