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Russ Kassoff: Bird Fly By

Edward Blanco By

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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).

Title: Bird Fly By | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: RHK Jazz


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