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.
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.
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, Nancy Kelly, 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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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...