Russ Kassoff is an accomplished jazz pianist, conductor, composer, orchestrator, and arranger, whose varied talents are much valued and on display in the music world. His 2nd solo/trio release “BIRD FLY BY” began its radio flight on June 14, 2010 followed by a release concert in NYC at Steinway Hall on 9/13/10. His first solo/trio CD “SOMEWHERE” was released in concert also at Steinway Hall on September 12, 2006. Visit www.cdbaby.com/artist/russkassoff for sample audio.
Russ is one of the most highly regarded musicians in New York and was praised by the New York Times in 2004 as possessing a “precision and enthusiasm that is riveting.”
In the words of the Chairman of the Board, “You are the best.” -Frank Sinatra, ’87
Russ recently concluded a successful run as music director/conductor pianist for COME FLY AWAY, (www.comeflyaway.com) – Twyla Tharp’s Broadway Show tribute to Frank Sinatra featuring 15 magnificent world class dancers and a spectacular 17-piece live big band performing to the recorded Sinatra tracks, plus live vocals by Hilary Gardner and Rosena M. Hill. Russ continues to be MD to Rita Moreno, The RKBB (Russ Kassoff Big Band), Catherine Dupuis (JazzPA’s Summer Jazz Celebration, Sackets Harbor Jazz Festival and many varied club appearances), French chanteuse Yvonne Constant, and numerous eclectic others.
In recent years, Russ appeared as conductor/pianist to Rita Moreno on PBS as the Mark Twain Prize was awarded to Bill Cosby. In the fall of 2009 Russ appeared at the Alliance theatre in Atlanta as pianist with a fantastic Dennis Mackrel – led 17 piece big band backing Twyla Tharp’s critically acclaimed brand new “Come Fly With Me” dance concert performed live to the vocals of Frank Sinatra and Dee Daniels featuring 15 of the most magnificent and accomplished dancers that you will ever see. The development of this piece led to the recently concluded Broadway run retitled “Come Fly Away”. Also in 2009 Russ focused on composing Suite For Gerry – for the RKBB in concert as a musical elegy, remembrance and tribute to Gerry Niewood, friend and founding member of Russ’s big band as well as a permanent member of the musical family we all belong to. The Elegy movement – Part I concludes the new CD release – BIRD FLY BY (June 2010), soulfully and beautifully performed by Adam Niewood on soprano sax as part of the musical tribute we will forever bestow to Gerry. Russ continues to perform in solo, duo, trio and the RKBB jazz settings as well as varied shows in Cabaret throughout the NY Metropolitan Area with vastly different vocalists such as Yvonne Constant, Debbie Gravitte and Lisa Dawn Miller. 2009 brought Russ a MAC award nomination. On June 14, 2010 Russ returned for what has become an annual week as solo pianist in the Piano In The Park series at Bryant Park. In July 2010 Russ returned to the annual JazzPA festival (Bellefonte, PA) with his trio including Jay Leonhart on bass and Dennis Mackrel on drums. They backed Wycliffe Gordon – who’s unlimited talents know no bounds. In July 2009 he also appeared at the JazzPA festival with his trio featuring David Finck and Dennis Mackrel backing legendary jazz saxophonist Jerry Dodgion as well as vocalist Catherine Dupuis. In 2008 a varied array of gigs had Russ performing – Rita Moreno at the Rrazz Room in San Francisco, Piano in the Park – Bryant Park, NYC, The Sackets Harbor Jazz Festival with Jerry Dodgion, and the JazzPA Festival with Tom “Bones” Malone and Byron Stripling. In 2007, Russ appeared as a featured guest on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR. Other live appearances in 2007 included conducting and accompanying Rita Moreno at the Napa Opera House, performing with Bucky Pizzarelli at Shanghai Jazz, Trio concert with Mark Murphy at the 8th Annual Sackets Harbor Jazz Festival (NY), Trio concert at the 3rd Annual State College (PA) Jazz Festival with Martin Wind – bass, Dennis Mackrel – drums, a duo piano concert with Bill Mays, also at the SCJF, a sensational 3 piano concert JAZZ IN JULY at Centenary College with Junior Mance and Jesse Green, The Russ Kassoff Big Band in concert at the Bahai Center in NYC, in concert with Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte at Zankel Hall in NYC, The RK trio at The Kitano, conductor/music director for Rita Moreno with the Columbus Symphony, and a four week engagement at The Carlyle Hotel in NYC with Rita Moreno.
Russ toured as pianist to Frank Sinatra by request from ’80-’91, including The Ultimate Event tour (’88-’89) televised nationally on PBS featuring Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, and Liza Minnelli. Russ also served as Liza’s pianist/accompanist from ’82-’01 and as Minnelli’s music director and conductor for the acclaimed Minnelli on Minnelli national tour (’00). In ’98 Russ was also pianist/conductor on Broadway for Charles Aznavour in concert.
His eclectic and varied recording career includes albums with Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, Red Norvo, Chris Connor, Sylvia Syms, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, Mimi Hines, Catherine Dupuis, Martha Lorin, to name a few. In addition to Sinatra and Minnelli, as a pianist, music director and/or conductor, Russ has accompanied a multi-varied list of performers including: Steve Allen, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Sammy Cahn, Liz Callaway, Claiborne Cary, Vic Damone, Catherine Dupuis, Debbie Gravitte, Buddy Greco, Gregory Hines, Mimi Hines, Carol Lawrence, Ute Lemper, Monica Mancini, Barry Manilow, Amanda McBroom, Susannah McCorkle, Maureen McGovern, Vincent Minnelli, Patrice Munsel, Toby Parker, John Pizzarelli, Faith Prince, Trudy Richards, Ginger Rogers, Annie Ross, Carly Simon, Carol Sloane, Sylvia Syms, and Luciano Pavarotti (duet with Liza for Pavarotti & Friends in 1996).
Russ has appeared at the Sackets Harbor Jazz Festival, the State College Jazz Festival, the Pensacola Jazz Festival, and the Toronto Jazz Festival. In New York , he has performed countless times at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall , Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the New York State Theatre, The Kaplan Penthouse and Town Hall. At the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park, NY, Russ has led numerous trios and small groups over 25 years, including six Command Performances for the membership. In the 1980’s, he performed regularly at the legendary jazz piano club Bradley’s and One Fifth Avenue . Russ has been a regular performer at the acclaimed Knickerbocker jazz club since 1984 and continues to enjoy duo and trio bookings there several times a year.
Russ’s arrangements and orchestrations have appeared in many different settings. From full orchestra for Rita Moreno, Liza Minnelli, Debbie Gravitte, and Charles Aznavour to intimate groups for Rita Moreno, Catherine Dupuis, Sylvia Syms, Mimi Hines, Chris Connor, John Pizzarelli, Bucky Pizzarelli, Trudi Richards, Martha Lorin and June Valli. Russ is also the sole writer and arranger for the concert book of the Russ Kassoff Big Band, which was featured in the world premiere concert of Big Band Broadway starring Tony award winner Debbie Gravitte at the Ridgefield Playhouse in November 2005. The RKBB has been featured in concert at The Milford (PA) Music Festival, Bargemusic (Brooklyn), St. Peter’s Church at Citicorp (NYC) and regularly at the Bahai Center (NYC).
In July 2002, Russ arranged and led two big band concerts in Norwood and Potsdam NY (Crane Youth Music). These arrangements have become the backbone of the new Russ Kassoff Big Band comprised of top studio recording and Broadway musicians, featured at the 2nd Milford, PA Music Festival in June 2004. The RKBB was heard on the Local 802 Musician’s Union radio spot promoting live music in the NY Metropolitan Area.
As an associate producer, 2004-10 has been a busy time for Russ. He wrote all of the arrangements, conducted, contracted and recorded CD’s for Catherine Dupuis (The Rules Of The Road), Martha Lorin (Blues Over Broadway), Jasper Kump (Sunday In New York) and Toby Parker (brother of Sara Jessica Parker!). His first solo/trio CD “SOMEWHERE” was released on 9/12/2006 at “STEINWAY HALL” in NYC.
As a composer, Russ works regularly with magnificent lyricist, Deirdre Broderick, the perfect wordsmith for the stories evolving from his tunes. Together they have written over 30 songs and most recently “I Remember” qualified for the penultimate round towards a 2005-6 Grammy Nomination. Russ also writes with lyricist Dan Regan, creating a pop and folk groove for the catalog.
Russ has performed as a member of many jazz groups, most notably with the Bucky Pizzarelli Trio in the 1980’s at the Cafe Pierre and New York’s Plaza Hotel, and their continued musical relationship finds them performing together at various jazz clubs, concerts, and jazz festivals. Russ was also a regular member of Peter Appleyard’s Benny Goodman Alumni, touring Canada extensively in the mid-1980’s and featuring jazz greats Ed Bickert, Slam Stewart, Dave Young, Billy Butterfield, Ed Polcer, Urbie Green, Abe Most, Butch Miles, Don Lamond, Peanuts Hucko, George Masso and Major Holley, among others.
As a concert jazz pianist, Russ has been featured at JazzPA’s Summer Jazz Celebration five times (including this past this year – July 24 – with Wycliffe Gordon, Jay Leonhart and Dennis Mackrel), The Pensacola Jazz Festival (3 times including April 2010, and the Toronto Jazz Festival (with Carol Sloane). Russ was the music director/coordinator and pianist for the Sackets Harbor (NY) Jazz Festival from 2000-2008 (with Rob McConnell, Harry Allen, Joe Cohn, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski, Ted Nash, Marvin Stamm, Mark Murphy, Jerry Dodgion and Catherine Dupuis with various incredible rhythm sections).
Since it’s inception in 2000, Russ served as the music director/coordinator and pianist for the Sackets Harbor Jazz Festival. The 9 year run brought performers Catherine Dupuis, Linc Milliman, Terry Clarke, Ron Vincent, Martin Wind, Rob McConnell, Kickie Britt, Glenn Drewes, Gary Keller, Rick Cutler, Harry Allen, Joe Cohn, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski, Marvin Stamm, Mark Murphy, Jerry Dodgion and Dennis Mackrel – quite an incredible array of talent in a most beautiful setting.
In 2005 Russ performed with his trio (Brian Torff and Rick Cutler) at the 1st annual State College Jazz Festival and his 2nd appearance in 2006 with his recording trio from “SOMEWHERE” was part of a spectacular day along with special guests Bucky Pizzarelli and Ken Peplowski.
In 2004, as a music director/conductor, in addition to all the fine vocalists he’s performed with, Russ conducted the Modesto Symphony with Rita Moreno, the annual Ridgefield (CT) Holiday Spectacular (starring Debbie Gravitte) and the annual Glaxo-Smithkline industrial show (as big band arranger and pianist).
In the summer of 2001, Russ toured Europe as pianist/accompanist to Internationally-acclaimed Ute Lemper.
On Broadway, Russ served as musical director/pianist for Charles Aznavour at the Marquis Theater in 1998 and as pianist/arranger/contractor to Minnelli on Minnelli at the Palace Theater in 1999-2000. Russ has also played hundreds of shows on Broadway, including Miss Saigon, Cats, Will Rogers Follies, Buttons On Broadway, Jane Eyre, The Life, Seussical, Victor Victoria, Sunset Boulevard, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Kiss Me Kate.
Highlights of the very early years include pianist/conductor on 2 World Cruises on Holland America’s Rotterdam (1979, 1981) a long stint (1976-1979) as the solo pianist high atop the World Trade Center’s Windows On The World Horsd’eourverie and summer and holiday weekend stints in the Catskill Mountain hotels at the end of their heyday! Hotels included Pine Lodge, The Heiden, The Grand Mountain, The Echo, The Homowack and in the summer of 1973 he was the bandleader at the Laurels Country Club.. Anyone remember ANY OF THIS?
Russ holds a B.M. in performance from the Crane School of Music, SUNY-Potsdam, 1974. He grew up in Brooklyn and Merrick, NY and began working professionally in the Catskills at the age of 13. A time gone by…