Russ Kassoff

 
RK's Solo/Trio CD "SOMEWHERE"
     

 

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Notes & Quotes:


2006 TOP TEN CD! - Jazz Journalists Association - Nancy Barell - http://www.jazzhouse.org/top06/?page_id=7

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 piano player."
- 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 a treat!"
- 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 on Somewhere."
- Jerry Vivino of the Max Weinberg 7 - Late Night with Conan O'Brien

"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 recording!"
- 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"

Reviews:

Somewhere
By Scott Ballin
www.jazzimprov.com
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.

Somewhere
By Ken Dryden
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/newyork/
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".

Somewhere
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

www.cadencebuilding.com

"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 excellent set.

Somewhere
Russ Kassoff | RHK Records (2006)
By Jack Bowers
www.allaboutjazz.com

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 good taste.

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
by Paula Edelstein

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.

Somewhere
Russ Kassoff | RHK Records (2006)
By Paul Ryan
www.allaboutjazz.com

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
Roberta E. Zlokower
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.

Notable tracks:

#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.

eJazzNews
By Edward Blanco
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.

eJazzNews
By John Gilbert
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 masterful solo.

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.

5 Stars

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Performance Reviews:

Russ Kassoff Jazz Trio at Steinway Hall
CD Release Event: Somewhere
Russ Kassoff on Steinway Piano
Martin Wind on Bass
Tim Horner on Drums
Steinway Hall
Betsy Hirsch, Sales and Press
212.332.0131
bhirsch@steinway.com
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 quality.

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.

 
 
 
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