2006 TOP TEN CD! - Jazz Journalists Association - Nancy Barell
2006 TOP TEN CD! - Ray Alexander - Fascinatin' Rhythm - Sundays 10AM-Noon UMFM Winnipeg, Manitoba http://www.umfm.com/music/bestof2006.shtml
"Russ Kassoff has put together a wonderful collection of
songs, all of them performed with class and a fine touch."
- Pianist Marian McPartland
"Somewhere is a brilliant piece of work! Especially "Lady
be Good" and "Love You Madly" which truly show Russ Kassoff's
artistry! A masterpeice!"
- Guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli
"I loved the Kassoff CD. It's a beautiful recording
It's a wonderful CD. I enjoyed it. Russ is a hell of a good
- Pianist Dave McKenna
"The new Russell Kassoff CD Somewhere brings to mind images
of a great painting. The canvas, a piano. The brushes, those
elegant, talented fingers and the colors, a selection of wondrous
melodies. Combined, they create music so sensuous, so inviting
that you will, as I do, sit back, listen, enjoy and be transported.
Thank you Mr. Kassoff."
- Rita Moreno
"I really enjoyed your CD! "Somewhere" is just fantastic!!!
Your selection of songs is great (a lot of my favorite standards,
and you are really a dynamite composer, too). All the best,
and good luck on this CD! Keep on keeping on!"
- Pianist Junior Mance
"Russ Kassoff is a consummate musician. I have known him
as a wonderful arranger, and when I hear him play, I can understand
why -- it's almost as if he's got a full orchestra hidden
inside the piano. On Somewhere, Russ plays with a full range
of colors and ideas, but never gets too far away from something
melodic. One thing he also expresses is a sense of humor,
a quality too many musicians seem to ignore. Martin Wind and
Tim Horner play like they grew up together, swinging and fully
supportive of whatever direction Russ takes."
- Ted Nash, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
"Impeccable taste - selection of songs, divine. Russ's 'bebop'
days are tastefully incorporated and a delight!"
- Vocalist Helen Merrill
"With beautiful concepts and great improvisations, both linearly
and harmonically, and elements of introspection and humor
and just good hard swing, Russ Kassoff is a masterful interpreter
of song and a joy to listen to."
- Guitarist Gene Bertoncini
"Russ Kassoff's new CD 'SOMEWHERE' is a beautiful and very creative album with all concerned playing at a very high consistent level-appropriately swinging and sensitive. Wind, Horner, and Knoop compliment Kassoff in fine fashion. I am looking forward to the next album."
- Pianist / Composer Kenny Ascher
"Russ Kassoff's new CD is on my turntable every day! What
- Tony award winning arranger/orchestrator Don Sebesky
"Russ Kassoff and his band mates are the real deal. This
wonderful pianist, arranger and composer swings, grooves and
burns on his long awaited debut CD Somewhere. Russ plays from
the heart. It's all good... it's all there... it's everywhere
- Jerry Vivino of the Max Weinberg 7 - Late Night with Conan
"Russ Kassoff's playing is sensational. I grew up hearing
Art Tatum harmonics, and Russ's harmonics are at the highest
level. It's been exciting over the years to hear him develop
from an obviously talented pianist to this exceptional level.
I think it had something to do with his concert opportunities
which led to such subtleties of tone/time and ideas. If anyone
deserves acclaim in that venue Russ is that man. And of course
- Judd Woldin, Tony Award winning composer of Raisin
"Russ Kassoff has it all - from lyricism to swing. Don't
take my word for it - play ANY track for yourself!"
- Mickey Leonard, composer of The Yearling
"A great CD. You're still playing those funny off-color musical
things and I love it - don't change a thing!"
- Bassist Jerry Bruno
"This will delight all jazz" buffs! A powerful performance
by a consummate piano master!"
- Peter Kuller - Jazz Presenter Radio Adelaide - JPL "Jazz
from Down Under"
By Scott Ballin
September 2007 issue - Jazz Improv NY edition Page 58
Also Appears in Vol. 7 Number 3, Summer 2007 Issue of Jazz Improv Page 201
To say Russ Kassoff is a busy man is an understatement to say the least. He arranges, composes, conducts and is also a wonderful jazz pianist. Kassoff's resume is chock full of singers - everyone from the Chairman of the Board to Liza Minnelli to Chris Connor, not to mention his associations with instrumentalists such as Bucky Pizzarelli and numerous others. Surprisingly, this is his first outing as a leader. It is a straight-ahead program featuring mostly standards with four originals and the 1960's folk song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" rounding out the set.
The piano is featured right from the beginning with a warm out of tempo reading of the Jerome Kern chestnut "Look For the Silver Lining." Tim Horner's use of brushes for the first chorus give things a kick. He switches over to the sticks for the piano solo which glides effortlessly over the solid underpinning. Bassist Martin Wind takes a swinging solo. His bass sound is captured well - a true pleasure to listen to. Some tasty fours follow before Kassoff returns to the melody closing with a cooking extended tag.
Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" a piece not often heard in a jazz context follows, receiving a light Latin groove, this time Horner stays on the brushes throughout. The tune gradually builds with Kassoff carefully choosing his notes while often interweaving bits of melody with the improvised line. Wind is again given a chance to work his magic through the changes. Kassoff is on his own on another tune not often heard in jazz, Irving Berlin's "It Only Happens When I Dance With You." Russ romps joyfully through the tune exploring the changes as if he was at home on his own piano in a relaxed state of mind.
Three of the originals - "A Sackets Sunset", "You Are All the World To Me", and "I Remember" are beautiful ballads all with rich harmonic content. They are played with a light but sure keyboard touch. We are treated to Wind's big sound in arco mode for a short but meaningful solo in "A Sackets Sunset." The lyrics to the pieces are included on the tray card surrounded by a sketch of Kassoff's profile. The disc is first class all the way from the recording quality and biographical liner notes by Kassoff to the individual and group photographs.
It's back to Berlin for a medium "The Best Thing For You." The second chorus is a snaking solo line brilliantly executed by piano and bass, with Horner's brushes providing solid time and fine fills. After the extended soli they break into straight time for more of the same fine swinging, melodically-appealing improvisations. Just like in the first tune, the piano and bass alternate with the drums on the fours.
The next original of the set "Samba du Sackets" starts mellow then kicks up the energy. The driving latin feel is a nice contrast to swingers and ballads. The only complaint is Wind's probing arco bass seems to be cut off mid-thought by a drum solo, which is also too short. The melody comes back in a relaxed fashion before a double-time extended coda. The last ballad original ballad "I Remember" is solo piano of stunning beauty. Keeping in the solo mode we are treated to a romping stride-based Ellington favorite: "Love You Madly." Again in ballad mode, Richard Rodgers lament of lost love "It Never Entered My Mind" is given a sensitive, gently reharmonized reading.
All the stops are pulled out for a medium up-tempo jaunt through the swing classic "Oh, Lady Be Good." The arrangement features a piano-bass dialogue and more solo stride piano. The high point was Kassoff's double-time stride before the rousing conclusion.
The disc closes with a heartfelt tribute dedicated to Kassoff's father who passed away shortly after the recording was completed. It is played simply and clearly - perfectly serving its intended purpose. This is a beautiful disc performed with skill and grace by three top pros.
By Ken Dryden
February 2007 issue - Page 18
The trio setting leaves no place for a pianist to hide. A
strong rhythm section may make up for a weak left hand, but
unless the leader chooses an interesting program and carries
his improvisational weight, all is for naught. This pianist
challenges listeners with his song selection and arrangements.
Russ Kassoff has an extensive resume backing singers (Frank
Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Sylvia Syms and Chris Connor) or accompanying
instrumentalists (Red Norvo, Bucky & John Pizzarelli),
leading big bands and writing arrangements, but Somewhere
marks his first jazz date as a leader playing in a solo/trio
setting. Joining him are Martin Wind (bass) and Tim Horner
(drums), two first-call musicians who both have extensive
experience with pianist Bill Mays. Kassoff naturally gravitates
to time-tested standards that he's played with countless singers
during his long career, yet he is able to bring something
fresh to each song. Examples include his soft, wistful setting
of the Leonard Bernstein title track, which incorporates a
catchy vamp as a repeated motif, or decoying the listener
with the opening lick of "Take the A Train" before
switching to a joyful stride piano solo rendition of Duke
Ellington's "Love You Madly". Even an old warhorse
like "Lady Be Good" benefits from his approach,
with humorous interludes and rapid-fire Art Tatum-like runs
in his solo introduction before his partners join him for
a swinging performance. One surprising choice is folkie Pete
Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", dedicated
to Kassoff's father who died shortly after the sessions were
completed and before he could hear the results. The pianist
also adds several original ballads, each of which could easily
hush a noisy nightclub audience, especially the dreamy but
not overly sentimental "I Remember".
Russ Kassoff | RHK JAZZ 101 Kassoff, p; Martin Wind, ac b;
Tim Horner, d; 1/23-24/06
By Grego Applegate Edwards
Cadence - December 2006 - Page 46 Number 5
"Russ Kassoff is who?" I thought this as I unwrapped the
latest package of review CDs. Now I KNOW. He has a beautiful
touch and a harmonic sensibility worthy of a genuine Evans
successor, which is something. There is the beautiful cantabile
introduction to a song little done - "Look for the Silver
Lining." It is hard to be simultaneously simple and sophisticated,
and he pulls it off. Then the band comes in swinging, and
whew, what a nice bit of playing for Kassoff-he swings like
crazy! Bernstein's "Somewhere," lushly stretched out to a
bossa ballad with the melody in halftime, shows Kassoff's
sensibility in top form. The rather obscure Irving Berlin
song "It Only Happens When I Dance with You" is played solo
with the swinging drive of a Dave McKenna, and real line weaving
facility. Duke's "Love You Madly," taken solo with that driving
rhythmic pulse, sounds as fresh as ever with some really happy
sounding swing! The touching "It Never Entered My Mind" gets
the solo treatment, a cantabile, sensitive rendition of a
classic tune. The album closes with a moving, unaccompanied
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - the anti-war folk anthem
of the early sixties that rings as true today as ever. An
Russ Kassoff | RHK Records (2006)
By Jack Bowers
It goes without saying that Frank Sinatra could have enlisted
the services of any accompanist he wanted. The fact that he
chose Russ Kassoff speaks volumes about Kassoff’s unequivocal
artistry, which is splendidly showcased on Somewhere, Kassoff’s
first album as leader of his own group (after almost forty
years as a professional musician).
Kassoff, whose natural sense of rhythm, fluent touch and scrupulous
attention to dynamics are above reproach, plays unaccompanied
on five selections, with bassist Martin Wind on one (“You
Are All the World to Me”), with Wind and drummer Tim Horner
on the remaining half-dozen. He also has a keen ear for a
charming melody, an impression borne out by the inclusion
of such undervalued treasures as “Look for the Silver Lining,”
“Somewhere,” “It Only Happens When I Dance with You,” “The
Best Thing for You” and “It Never Entered My Mind.” Completing
the captivating program are the Gershwins’ “Lady Be Good,”
Ellington’s “Love You Madly,” Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All
the Flowers Gone” and four of Kassoff’s original compositions,
three of which were co-written with lyricist Deirdre Broderick
(but not sung here).
Even though Kassoff is the unmistakable headliner, sharing
the stage with colleagues as sharp and productive as Wind
and Horner certainly doesn’t damage the cause. Horner is a
resourceful drummer, Wind an unerring timekeeper, and the
numbers on which they are included sparkle from start to finish.
But Kassoff’s no slouch when left to his own devices, as he
shows clearly on “It Only Happens,” “I Remember,” “Love You
Madly,” “It Never Entered My Mind” and “Flowers.”
In sum, lovely and often inspired piano work by a gentleman
who definitely knows his way around the keyboard. Pristine
sound and generous playing time heighten the pleasure. Recommended
to those who appreciate uncommon talent nourished by uniformly
Track listing: Look for the Silver Lining; Somewhere; It Only
Happens When I Dance with You; A Sackets Sunset; The Best
Thing for You; You Are All the World to Me; Samba du Sackets;
I Remember; Love You Madly; It Never Entered My Mind; Oh,
Lady Be Good; Where Have All the Flowers Gone (70:46).
Personnel: Russ Kassoff: piano; Martin Wind: bass (1,2,4-7,11);
Tim Horner: drums (1,2,4,5,7,11).
All Music Guide
"Somewhere" - Album Review
Well-known for his important contributions as pianist to
Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, and the Bucky Pizzarelli Trio
in the '80s, jazz pianist Russ Kassoff now leads his own group
in innovative renderings of mid-20th century music and several
of his own compositions. The combination of Great American
Songbook standards based on successful Broadway plays with
music from the Kassoff songbook of the same period account
for very colorful music.
Interpretations of the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim
title track "Somewhere,"Irving Berlin's "The Best Thing for
You," Duke Ellington's "Love You Madly" and others are interspersed
with improvisations from various compositions and feature
excellent soloing by bassist Martin Wind and drummer Tim Horner.
Kassoff and his ensemble develop their rhythmically infectious
jazz renderings directly from the music's own elements, showing
that a song with great melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic strengths
can be a real joy to reinterpret regardless of its original
idiom. The creative improvisation also extends to Kassoff's
stellar originals. On "A Sacket's Sunset," his graceful improvisations
are absolutely stunning. They flow with sophistication and
are carefully illuminated by the colors and textures supplied
by his rhythmic partners. "You Are All the World to Me," features
his serene beauty, intriguing style, and vivid concepts as
an outstanding composer and gifted improviser. Overall, Somewhere
is vibrant, compelling, and destined to become an essential
component of collections that favor jazz trios.
Russ Kassoff | RHK Records (2006)
By Paul Ryan
It has been a long time coming, but at the age of 52, Russ
Kassoff has finally released his first album as a leader.
Somewhere is split almost evenly between solo piano
and trio tracks (plus one duo tune).
From the first plaintive notes of “Look For The Silver
Lining,” Kassoff’s lyricism and brilliantly executed
melodic lines shine through. Bassist Martin Wind matches the
leader’s lyrical quality, especially in his nimble excursion
on “Somewhere.” During a particularly engaging
moment on “The Best Thing For You,” following
the theme statement, Kassoff and Wind play unison bop lines
over the changes, before Kassoff takes off on his own solo.
Kassoff demonstrates here that he is well-versed in a variety
of jazz piano styles. On a solo reading of Duke Ellington’s
“Love You Madly,” he employs both stride and bop
vocabulary, bouncing along joyously, exuding a sense of playfulness
and tossing in the occasional quote. The closer, “Where
Have All The Flowers Gone,” finds Kassoff in a more
impressionist mood, at times recalling Chick Corea’s
early-'70s solo sides for ECM.
On another highlight, “Oh, Lady Be Good,” Kassoff’s
solo opens right in the pocket and stays there. His trio mates,
Wind and drummer Tim Horner, provide the underpinning and
allow him to reach heights of melodic invention. The drums
then drop out and there is some simultaneous improvisation
between Wind and Kassoff, before the latter takes off on a
solo romp that dips into earlier piano styles. He quotes the
theme from The Flintstones, and then the rhythm section
returns and a quick denouement ensues.
There’s hardly a single instance on this album where
Kassoff doesn’t convey emotional warmth and beauty.
This is a most welcome “debut” from Kassoff, a
long-time member of the late Frank Sinatra’s ensemble.
Kassoff: Somewhere - CD Review
September 23, 2006
This CD is uniquely a romantic, peaceful selection of renowned
ballads and original compositions, played in a forthright,
non-flamboyant style, for an aura of musical pleasure. Russ
Kassoff, Frank Sinatra?s pianist, uses insightful improvisation
and emotional intensity for must-hear-again tune after tune.
#2 - Somewhere - Composed by Leonard Bernstein/Stephen
Sondheim. This title track brings Bernstein?s memorable melody
to new poignancy and sensitivity. With the softest of bass
and drums, Kassoff's piano is never overwhelmed, as the accompanists
add inherent rhythm, while piano trills expand.
#6 - You Are All the World To Me - Composed by Russ
Kassoff/Deirdre Broderick. This is a meandering and moody
composition, with a lovely, languorous melody. The refrains
fall like late summer raindrops.
#9 - Love You Madly - Composed by Edward Kennedy
Ellington. An A Train introduction to another Ellington favorite
previews the jazzy motif of Kassoff's buoyant arrangement.
This track swings and sings with rambunctious interludes.
#11 - Oh, Lady be Good - Composed by George Gershwin/Ira
Gershwin. A fragmented, expressionist introduction to a Gershwin
ballad is a clue to Kassoff's piano arrangement, rapid and
vibrant. The bass and drums find a prominent showcase in this
thankfully long track.
July 04, 2006
Accomplished jazz pianist, composer and arranger, Russ Kassoff
who has performed with some of the biggest names in show business
(Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin),
releases a new album of warm and delightful material with
the mid-tempo sounds in Somewhere. Recorded with a trio, Kassoff’s
other band mates include bassist Martin Wind and drummer Tim
Horner. Together they form a tight group producing a rhythm-based
gentle sound that captures your soul.
Kassoff provides all of the arrangements and four original
compositions (“A Sackets Sunset,” “You Are All The World To
Me,” “Samba du Sackets”and“I Remember”). The rest of the tunes,
on this twelve track set, are a selection of pop/jazz standards
from some of the greatest composers in history (George & Ira
Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein and Rodgers & Hart).
Kassoff starts off in an impressive style with a key-pounding
performance on the head-bopping rhythm of “Look For The Silver
Lining.” There’s a delicious interpretation of Bernstein’s
famous West Side Story tune and title cut “Somewhere.” Two
of the leaders own compositions, “A Sackets Sunset” and “You
Are All The World To Me,” are beautiful slow ballads played
to the heart by Kassoff in a shining performance on piano.
He plays some jazzy chords on Ellington’s “Love You Madly.”
There are a lot of fine charts on this disc which finishes
with the familiar Peter Seeger pop classic, “Where Have All
The Flowers Gone,” which is all Kassoff on the keys.
An album of beautiful music that appeals to ones lighter side,
Somewhere delivers an enchanting seventy minutes of mellow
magic by a master of the piano. Kassoff succeeds in making
an elegant musical statement with a powerful performance.
An album you will listen to often.
June 22, 2006
Pianist Russ Kassoff has respect for the music of Bird /
Diz et al and it shines through his music in ways that capture
the essence of true jazz.
"Look For The Silver Lining" The 'touch' of Russ Kassoff is
lovingly expressed in this time honored tune. His solo is
ideation personified and the ensemble is both tasty and driving
in enhancing this song. The bass solo by Martin Wind cool
as a summer breeze. Nice fours by all, round out this track.
"The Best Thing For You"..Bright is the byword here with nice
brushwork by Tim Horner ..Oblique quotes of Down By The Riverside
and Pick Yourself Up are deftly inserted by Kassoff in his
There are 12 tunes on the album and all are presented in Russ
Kassoff's formidable style. This recording is what jazz should
be in all its glory,. There is no nonsense here just solid
musical expressions done logically with swing as the main
component. Kassoff is a seasoned pro who will delight the
'modern jazz' buffs in a graceful and stylish manner.
California Coast Jazz At: http://community-2.webtv.net/johnnyjazz/johnnyjazzsjazzpage
Jazz Trio at Steinway Hall
CD Release Event: Somewhere
Russ Kassoff on Steinway Piano
Martin Wind on Bass
Tim Horner on Drums
Betsy Hirsch, Sales and Press
Review by Dr.
Roberta E. Zlokower
September 12, 2006
In the plush elegance of New York’s renowned
Steinway Hall, amidst ornate paintings of famous composers
and pianists, marble columns, tapestries, silk draperies,
a giant chandelier, ceiling murals, and the quintessential
Steinways, tonight’s audience was treated to a rare
event, Jazz at Steinway Hall. Russ Kassoff, whose biography
notes that he was Frank Sinatra’s pianist for many years,
is a genial and conversational host, warming up his fans,
many of whom are in the New York jazz community, such as Manfred
and Birgit Knoop of TWINZ
Records and Knoop Studio, Gwen Calvier of Hot
House Jazz Magazine, and Bill Mays and Junior Mance,
both jazz pianists. The ambiance was quintessentially high
Russ began the concert with a melancholy introduction to
Look for a Silver Lining, building to a Swing, as s solo bass
added richness against soft drums. I noticed immediately the
incredibly clear and lovely acoustics at Steinway Hall, as
every note on Russ’ grand piano could be heard. Somewhere,
from Bernstein and Sondheim’s West Side Story, added
Tim Horner’s clavé drums for Latin effect, along
with Martin Wind’s smooth bass bow. The Best Thing For
You, by Irving Berlin, included generous percussive rolls
and piano improvisation.
Kassoff’s composition (co-written with Deirdre Broderick),
You Are All the World To Me, was well blended with a mesmerizing,
meandering melody, each note clear as a bell. Another Kassoff/Broderick
collaboration, I Remember, was played on solo Steinway, like
à cappella singing. Samba du Sackets, an original Kassoff
piece, is a tribute to an Upstate New York Jazz Festival.
A fused Samba-Jazz theme was upbeat, breezy, and syncopated.
Martin Wind’s bow added steady staccato, and Tim Horner
enhanced the sound with exotic percussion. Russ Kassoff took
a driven detour with interest and intensity.
I Love You Madly, a solo Swing, showed off the resonance
and richness of Kassoff’s Steinway, as it ended with
an Ellington A Train clip. Gershwin’s Lady Be Good raced
with excitement, rapid fingering included. The bass danced
with rambunctious rhythm, as Kassoff zoomed up and down scales
for some hot Savoy Swing. In contrast, the finale, Where Have
All the Flowers Gone?, began in soft solitude, a reference
to the folly of war. The piece became more aggressive and
atonal, before its lasting whisper of an ending.