"You are the best." -Frank Sinatra, '87
"I am privileged to be on the receiving end of the joyful and soulful sounds that this man produces with his hands. . . ." Rita Moreno, '05.
The Rules of the Road - Reviews Page
"Pianist Russ Kassoff . . . precision and enthusiasm that is riveting." Stephen Holden, The New York Times, 5/21/04.
"Russ Kassoff's playing is sensational. I grew up hearing Art Tatum’s harmonics, and Russ's harmonics are at the highest level . . . with beautiful melodic solos, and over the years a deepening sense of swing. Believe me; I know when I'm hearing something exceptional." Judd Woldin, Tony Award winning composer of Raisin.
The Rules of the Road
Press Release - March 20, 2005
- CD Release at the Iridium Jazz Club
"Monica Mancini is helped immeasurably by the musicianship of the four-piece band behind her that could not be improved upon; in particular, pianist Russ Kassoff truly makes the keyboard sing." Barbara and Scott Siegel
"[Vic] Damone settled into Vernon Duke's 'April in Paris'.... It was a fresh new approach to a postcard picture glance at Paree, and Russ Kassoff flourished his piano solo with a crisp and bold attack." -Robert Daniels, Variety 5/27/00"
"Russ has been in great demand to support singers of widely disparate styles. Comping is a rare talent, not well understood outside jazz circles, and its most accomplished exponents, such as Tommy Flanagan, who was Ella Fitzgerald's piano player for years, do not get a lot of notice generally. It is more than just accompanying a singer or instrumentalist; it is an integral part of a musical partnership that so enhances the soloist's performance that the result is truly greater than the sum of its parts." John Cleveland, Producer, Sackets Harbor Jazz Festival
"...Backed by a first-rate orchestra under the baton of Russell Kassoff, Minnelli sang songs from the best in the business... [in a] tribute to her father, the late film and stage director Vincente Minnelli." The Sacramento Bee 3/11/00
"Trudy Richards (critically acclaimed singer with the legendary Charlie Barnett Band) has an ideal voice for jazz. Backed by a fantastic band comprised of musical director Russ Kassoff on piano, Don DeMarco on guitar, and Linc Milliman on bass, the evening turns out to be something special." Laurie Lawson, Punch In International (punchin.com).
"You'd be hard pressed to find a jazz singer in any New York City venue with a more seductively beautiful voice than Martha Lorin's. Lorin plays a little fast and loose with the lyrics - but oh, the towering talent! This is a tour de force of style, arranged by Lorin's musical director, Russ Kassoff. The show also features the ever-popular bassist, Jay Leonhart." Barbara & Scott Siegel, Living It Up 10/17/03
[Re: The LP “I Love Being Here With You”] "At the age of 55, Chris Connor's style had become rather conservative, and her voice was starting to age a bit, but she still sounds fine on this little-known set. With tasteful backup by pianist Russ Kassoff, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, bassist Dick Sarpola and drummer Tony Tedesco, Connor revisits "The Thrill Is Gone," "Like Someone in Love" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." She also sings some tunes that were added to her repertoire in later years, including “Baia” and Richard Rodney Bennett's "Anyone Home." Jazz vocalist and cabaret collectors may want to search for this set." Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
BIRD FLY BY
Early press about Bird Fly By: "...Such a variety of ideas and tempos, you are all having a good time, up to date and swinging!" - Marian McPartland
"Smooth, intelligent…." - Twyla Tharp
"…Great performance, wonderful variety in the choice of material and a beautiful tribute to Gerry Niewood." Jazz sax legend - Jerry Dodgion
5/29s RUSS KASSOFF "BIRD FLY BY"
“A really excellent cd! Love his playing, keep it coming!
It will be part of my playlists for many months to come.”
Peter Kuller - Jazz Presenter Radio Adelaide 101.5fm & www.radio.adelaide.edu.au
6/5/10 - Bird Fly By with Russ Kassoff and his trio is an outstanding mix of Broadway, the Great American Songbook and compositions by Russ himself.
Kudos to all. Bob Collins - Jazz Producer - WRHU
And then they wrote:
Russ Kassoff at All About Jazz
Bird Fly By
Russ Kassoff | RHK Jazz (2010)
By JACK BOWERS
Published: October 30, 2010
Track Listing: Yes, Sir, That's My Baby; Bird Fly By; Edleweiss; Joy; As Life Disappears; The Groove Merchant; The Heather on the Hill; A Breath of Spring; One Minute More; Every Day I'm in Love with You; River Stay 'Way from My Door; New Sun in the Sky; Until It's Time for You to Go; Elegy, Part 1--Suite for Gerry.
Personnel: Russ Kassoff: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Dennis Mackrel: drums; Adam Niewood: soprano saxophone (4), tenor saxophone (14).
Bird Fly By opens, appropriately enough, with Russ Kassoff 's unaccompanied piano establishing an easygoing vibe on Gus Kahn / Walter Donaldson's flapper-era standard, "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby." He's soon joined by bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Dennis Mackrel for a groovy romp that's all but certain to leave the listener smiling. Listening to that prefatory number is all that's needed to understand that Kassoff clearly loves what he is doing—and that he does it remarkably well.
Kassoff's musical philosophy could well be summed up in a word, "Joy ," which coincidentally is the title of special guest Adam Niewood's sunny composition, on which the composer's eloquent tenor saxophone reinforces the trio. Kassoff's half-dozen originals includes the plaintive "Elegy, Part 1—Suite for Gerry," dedicated to Niewood's father, a superb woodwind player who died in a plane crash in February 2009. The younger Niewood reappears on that tune, this time on soprano sax, to carry the ball most of the way. Kassoff also wrote "Bird Fly By," "A Breath of Spring," "One Minute More," "As Life Disappears" and "Every Day I'm in Love with You," each of which underscores his impressive talents as a composer.
Standards not already noted include Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Edelweiss," Lerner and Loewe's "The Heather on the Hill," Howard Dietz / Arthur Schwartz's too-seldom-heard "New Sun in the Sky" (complete with zestful boogie woogie licks) and Mort Dixon / Harry Woods' "River Stay 'Way from My Door." Jerome Richardson wrote the suitably named "The Groove Merchant," and Buffy Sainte-Marie the lyrical "Until It's Time for You to Go." Kassoff plays each one with equal parts warmth and intelligence, while his quick-handed colleagues, Mackrel (the new director of the Count Basie Orchestra) and Anderson, lend perceptive and unflagging support.
A delightful album by a pianist (and trio) who should be more widely known and appreciated.
CD/LP Review | Published: June 20, 2010
Bird Fly By
Russ Kassoff | Self Produced (2010)
By EDWARD BLANCO - ALL ABOUT JAZZ
As of this writing, jazz pianist Russ Kassoff is the pianist and conductor of a seventeen-piece big band, and the musical director of Come Fly Away the Twyla Tharp Broadway dance musical tribute to Frank Sinatra. These associations became the inspiration and, as Kassoff states, the "final piece of impetus...needed," for recording Bird Fly By. Not surprising, however, considering an impressive musical résumé that includes touring with Sinatra for over a decade, culminating in the 1989 "The Ultimate Event" world tour.
After a summer, 2008 concert performance with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Dennis Mackrel, Kassoff determined the chemistry to be perfect for this trio outing. Saxophonist Adam Niewood—son of the late Gerry Niewood, friend and co-founder of the Russ Kassoff Big Band—appears here as special guest, lending his tenor voice to his father's composition, "Joy," later playing soprano on "Elegy Part 1—Suite For Gerry," penned by the pianist as a tribute piece for his late friend, and which ends the album in gentle, graceful manner.
Originally recorded by Sinatra with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, "Yes Sir That's My Baby," starts off the set with Kassoff leading his trio in a light and mellow rendition. The title piece follows in a similarly mellow fashion, this time displaying beautiful color and showcasing the Kassoff's chops. Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Edelweiss," made popular in the Julie Andrews movie The Sound Of Music (1965), is performed by Kassoff in slow, classical mode, accompanied by Mackrel's soft brush strokes.
Jerome Richardson's "The Groove Merchant" is skillfully reworked for the trio setting, maintaining the same dicey groove of the original. One of the most beautiful originals on the album is the very sensitive "As Life Disappears," a message song almost soulful in expression, conveying a feeling of quiet desperation at the thought of a life slipping away. Kassoff goes solo on three pieces, "River Stay Away From My Door," "Until It's Time For You To Go" and "The Heather On The Hill," borrowed from the 1947 Broadway musical Brigadoon.
The music continues with several more originals, including "One Minute More," "A Breath of Spring," and "Every Day I'm In Love With You"—all part of the same gentle landscape. Except for the bouncy "New Sun In The Sky," where the pianist runs all over the keyboard, there are few swinging pieces or hard-driving bop melodies here. Preferring a lofty mellow sound, Russ Kassoff takes flight on another album of soft light jazz with Bird Fly By, soaring well above the ordinary trio projects that abound these days.
Track listing: Yes Sir That's My Baby; Bird Fly By; Edelweiss; Joy; As Life Dissapears; The Groove Merchant; The Heather On The Hill; A Breath of Spring; One Minute More; Every Day I'm In Love With You; River Stay Away From My Door; New Sun In The Sky; Until It's Time for You to Go; Elegy Part 1--Suite for Gerry.
Personnel: Russ Kassoff: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Dennis Mackrel: drums; Adam Niewood: soprano saxophone (4), tenor saxophone (14).
By Brad Walseth - 7/19/10
Russ Kassoff - "Bird Fly By"
Jazz pianist, composer/arranger/conductor and more Russ Kassoff's bio reads like a thing of dreams: longtime pianist and musical director for both Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, co-founded a big band that included the late Gerry Niewood; accompanied Tony Bennett, Rita Moreno (with whom he still continues as MD) , Paul Anka and many more; and recorded albums with people like Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Red Norvo, Carly Simon and Rod Stewart. Currently, Kassoff has been leading a 17-piece big band as musical director for choreographer Twyla Tharp's Broadway show tribute to Frank Sinatra - Come Fly Away. On Kassoff's sophomore release in a solo/trio setting, the pianist presents an eclectic group of songs ranging from "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" to the Sound of Music's "Edelweiss" to Buffy Saint-Marie's "Until It's Time for You to Go" to Jerome Richardson's "The Groove Merchant" (made famous by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band), Brigadoon's "The Heather on the Hill" and Schwartz/Dietz's "New Sun in the Sky." Add in a cover of Gerry Niewood's "Joy," an original tribute to the late saxman ("Elegy - Part 1 - Suite for Gerry") and several other Kassoff-penned compositions and you have the makings of an album that is sure to keep the listener's interest. Adding their talents to Kassoff's world-class piano skills on this session are first-call NYC musicians - bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Dennis Mackrel, as well as Gerry Niewood's talented son - Adam on soprano and tenor sax on a couple tracks. Kassoff's piano playing is light and pleasant and as to be expected - well-versed in traditional technique. This sprightly touch truly enhances pieces like the lovely title track - which skitters like a bird across your senses. There is an obvious camaraderie between the trio members, and Niewood adds some deeply heartfelt playing as tribute to his late father. Kassoff and crew prove to be as adept at up-tempo charmers ("The Groove Merchant," "Joy," "A Breath of Spring") as ballads ("As Life Disappears," the solo "The Heather on the Hill") and Kassoff's original compositions are as strong and appealing as the covers. Meanwhile, the recorded sound is beautifully clean and warm and a joy to listen to. If you love jazz piano solos, you will take to this recording like a fish to water, or a bird to the air.
RUSS KASSOFF, PIANO, and BAND
BIRD FLY BY
By: ROB LESTER - TALKIN' BROADWAY
Like his earlier recent album under his own name, pianist/conductor Russ Kassoff brings a welcome understated touch, modest but masterful, to standards and attractive originals—so much so that one is tempted to nickname him "No-Fuss Russ." His long career has included jazz trio gigs, work with Rita Moreno, Liza Minnelli, Yvonne Constant (in her current cabaret shows of French songs) and Frank Sinatra, whose songs he's focused on these days as Broadway pianist/conductor of the live orchestra augmenting Frank Sinatra's recorded vocals in Come Fly Away with Twyla Tharp's dancers.
This 70-minute instrumental outing is not a tie-in CD, despite the presence of a couple of songs Sinatra recorded and the word "fly" in the album's title song. It's one of four very accessible and easy-flowing originals which have lyrics penned by past collaborator Deirdre Broderick; yes, I said it's an all-instrumental album, and it is, but the words are provided in the packaging anyway. The heartfelt lyrics are direct and unpretentious like the melodies they match, and it's easy enough to sing them in your head because the playing is straightforward before things take jazzier, exploratory turns once established. (Tracks are mostly on the long side, most over four minutes and the title song clocking in at a feather more than six-and-a-half.)
Although they don't ape the personality and tempi or arrangements of them, the two numbers Sinatra recorded, the assertive-but-bouncy piano solo of "River, Stay 'Way from My Door" and the strutting oldie "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby" are nifty numbers with lots of flair and a bit of flash.
Musical theater repertoire, with three songs of different decades, are major highlights here. One is the sprightly, wonderfully building strut of the Schwartz and Dietz "New Sun in the Sky" from the 1931 revue The Band Wagon (being developed for a return to the boards) and heard in the much-later movie of the same name that used some of its songs. On the much gentler side, there are exquisite, wistful "hold your breath" takes on "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music and a piano solo on Brigadoon's "The Heather on the Hill," tip-toeing their way from and into the heart with delicacy. Perhaps being on Broadway has gotten into Russ's blood, as you might hear a fleeting reference to another show currently on the boards again, West Side Story, in one arrangement.
On some tracks, the leader gives generous spotlight time to his ace bandmates, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Dennis Mackrel. Two tracks salute the late saxophonist-composer Gerry Niewood, who was a Kassoff colleague and friend. One is an original, "Elegy—Part 1" and the other, the Niewood composition called "Joy." Son Adam Niewood, also a sax man, is on hand for these two tracks and makes a strong impression with talent and skill as well as bringing variety to the sound menu.
The whole album makes a strong, yet at the same time often subtle, impression, inviting repeat plays. I've logged frequent Flyer miles since receiving an early copy.
- Rob Lester
Pianist RUSS KASSOFF has a new album, Bird Fly By (RHK Jazz – 201) that nicely blends some melodic Kassoff originals with several standards that offers him the opportunity to demonstrate his versatility as a player, as well as his impressive compositional gifts. He is joined in this endeavor by Jay Anderson on bass and Dennis Mackrel on drums. Saxophonist Adam Niewood is added for two tracks, his late father Gerry’s tune, “Joy,” and the first part of the suite written in Gerry’s memory by Kassoff, “Elegy.” Both of these selections are special for both Kassoff and Adam Neiwood, as Gerry Niewood’s life was ended in a fatal airplane crash last year. He had been a member of Kassoff’s big band, and was a large influence on his son as a father and as a musician. Kassoff’s playing is ebullient on some tunes and delicately sensitive when that is the appropriate option. His original songs cry out for lyrics, and Dierdre Broderick has written words for four of them. There are no vocals on the album, but the lyrics are printed on the packaging. Hopefully, the songs will be recorded with the lyrics which read well. Russ Kassoff and his superb trio have made one fine album! - Joe Lang - New Jersey Jazz Society
RUSS KASSOFF - KNICKERBOCKER DEC 10 and 11, 2010
HOT HOUSE SPOTLIGHT - DECEMBER ISSUE 2010 - By: GEORGE KANZLER
Pianis Russ Kassoff gets lots of mileage out of what Frank Sinatra told him in 1987: "You are the best." That's a nice accolade, but Kassoff has better props to stand on these days, namely his piano artistry, which has constantly improved, as evidenced by his fine ne CD, Bird Fly By (RHKJazz), wherin his talent for illuminating songs - some lesser known standards like Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Edelweiss", others adapted from pop or folk sources, like Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Until It's Time For You To Go" - is matched by his talent for composing memorable melodies and delivering them with a graceful, swinging touch. Here he'll be joined by guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and bassists Jay Anderson (Dec 10) and Gary Mazzaroppi (Dec 11) GK... http://www.hothousejazz.com
Notes & Quotes:
2006 TOP TEN CD! - Jazz Journalists Association - Nancy Barell
2006 TOP TEN CD! - Ray Alexander - Fascinatin' Rhythm - Sundays 10AM-Noon UMFM Winnipeg, Manitoba
"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"
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 excellent set.
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 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.
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
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.
#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.
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.
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.
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Russ Kassoff 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 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.