Artists: Russo Alberts Trio
Don Russo - Bassist
Don Russo has paid far more than the usual dues in his journey as a Jazz Bassist. Music has always been his life’s quest, from his first vocal stage performances at the age of 5 and his first stint in a band as a guitarist at age 10 through his permanent connection with the bass, formed at age 18. His major influences include Percy Heath, Charles Mingus, Scott Lafaro, Ron Carter, and Charlie Haden. Don studied the bass for four years with Wendell Rudolph, and then expanded his education with instruction from Charles Siani of the San Francisco Symphony and Walter Hardman of the New York Philharmonic Symphony and the Detroit Symphony. He was awarded a full Ford Tuition Scholarship to the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts, where he majored in Bass. He was also a member of The Jackson Michigan 15 piece Jazz Orchestra led by Dr. Don Wes.It was during his studies at the Detroit Institute that fate intervened and nearly ended a promising musical career before it had begun. While waiting for a bus after class, he was mugged, and in the process of defending himself, he sustained a gunshot wound to his left hand. For years, he put his musical dreams on hold, earning his living in the world of business while pursuing physical and mental rehabilitation and privately nurturing his hampered dream. Undaunted persistence and his passion for music saw him through several years of rehabilitation, and with considerable effort his journey resumed. In 2005 the Russo Alberts Trio released “Rejuvenation”, marking Don’s reemergence in the music scene.Don has played with many of the greats. In Detroit, he performed with Bubby Hatchet, Marcus Belgrave, Dan Turner, and Leon Hatkins. In San Francisco, he has been a member of the Virgil Gonsalves Quartet and the Don Alberts Quartet, and is currently a member of the Russo Alberts Trio. He has also performed in San Francisco with Art Lewis, Vi Redd, Dewey Redman, Larry Vucovich, Norman Williams, and the legendary Scatman Crothers. He was also house bassist for Gilmore Recording Studio and Jimbo’s Bop City, as well as a frequent performer at Soulsville and Haight Levels in San Francisco.Don Russo’s recordings include three CDs: Virgil Gonsalves Quartet (to be released), Don Alberts Trio 63 (to be released), and “Rejuvenation” by the Russo Alberts Trio, released in 2005.Don plays 7/8 Ren’e Cune 1957 bass, with set up by David Gage String Instruments, and a Realist Pickup.
Don Alberts - Pianist
Don Alberts grew up playing in the San Francisco jazz clubs which exposed him to the challenging music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Bud Powell. Much of this music became his foundation and a style rooted deeply in bebop and the blues. The romantic side of his playing comes from the influence of pianist Bill Evans. Don has shared the bandstand with many great musicians: Leroy Vinnegar, Chet Baker, Shorty Rogers, Bud Shank, David Friesen, John Handy, Bobby Shew, Francis Vanek, Al Molina, Vince Lateano, Bruce Foreman, John Stowel, Virgil Gonsalves and others. Don was also house pianist at the famous Bop City in San Francisco.A native of the San Francisco area, he attended San Jose City College as a music major and studied with Thomas Ryan at San Jose State. Don has appeared in many JAZZ venues and major festivals throughout the Northwest and Canada including the "Mount Hood Festival Of Jazz" in Portland, Oregon.
Beginning piano at the age of ten, his earliest influence was the Boogie Woogie style of Mary Lou Williams. His favorites; Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Errol Garner, George Shering, Nat Cole, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Hampton Hawes, Red Garland, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Clark, Chic Corea, and Mulgrew Miller.
Awards: Don has received the prestigious ASCAP 2005 Jazz Composers Award for his recent book "Don Alberts Original Jazz Compositions Volume Five" published by Chill House Music 2004. Don is included in the historic photo "The San Francisco Giants of JAZZ."
Art Lewis - Drums
Born in New Orleans, Art Lewis began his career in San Francisco, where he studied under Philly Joe Jones. He played at many local clubs, including Jimbo’s Famous Bop City, which was the major club at the time. He moved to New York in 1968 and played with many of the more prominent modern jazz players at clubs like the Village Vanguard, Slug’s, Ali’s Alley, The Tin Palace, The Public Theater, Jazz Workshop, and more.While Philly Joe counts as a major influence on Art’s style, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, Tony Williams, and Jack De Johnette are drummers who he respects and is closest to in style and feeling. Additionally, extensive study of African sources has given him a sense of how melodic line can be created with drums, and his later style has developed with this as its goal.
Art has worked and recorded with many of the major players in the music world, including Dewey Redman, Dexter Gordon, Clifford Jordan, Jon Hendricks, Sam Rivers, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, John Handy, and Joe Lee Wilson
Throughout his career his work has been reviewed in the New York Times, the Village Voice, Jazz Podium (West Germany), Washington Post, Melody Maker (London), and Down Beat. He has toured extensively throughout Europe, the United States and the Mid-East. He is considered one of the premier drummers in the new music.
New Releases: 2007
The new 2007 release of “Bad Boys,” “The Russo Alberts Trio” has been getting a lot of attention since the first airing on KCSM in San Mateo by Broadcaster Sonny Buxton. The Cd features ten new recordings, nine originals by Don Alberts and one by Charles Mingus. Published on the Sims Road Music label it is now available on many outlets including CD Baby.com and other download sites. Visit donalberts.com, chillhousemusic.com, simsroadmusic.com.
This release comes at a fortunate time as it coincides with the release and airing on of the DVD, “Russo Alberts Trio, Live at Kuumbwa.” This new DVD is currently being broadcast on Public access TV in The Santa Cruz, Monterey area and will migrate to other areas of the state and beyond. This product will also be available soon in stores and on the internet at CD Baby.com and most other music and video download sites.
About the music:
Bad Boys-represents the past of us all, how we came back from the depths to find each other again and continue this music after years of being misfits. It is the perfect setting for this band.
Coy Madden: It was originally the extension of a poem, the song came one afternoon at the piano alone in the house with conflicting feelings of loss or abandonment. As it turns out it was not about that at all, but uplifting and smart. The people in L.A. loved it and that made it a permanent part of the band's music.
One Fine Thing- is a minor blues. It pivots on an introductory figure that resolves to solos in F minor. It is a joy to play and "One Fine Thing."
Definition- evolved out of the many versions of the form we use and served to define the musical configuration as a model.
Rise- is the first excursion in the use of a device to expand the harmonic influence combining Lydian harmony with the bebop forms without sacrificing melodic beauty and content. This might have been the title song.
Godfire Mantra- is an excursion to the"outside," a meditation if you allow it. Don Russo and Art Lewis shine in this openness as it approaches complete freedom touching at the formless and setting the stage for future explorations, a sophisticated genre Art Lewis knows well from his times with Andrew Hill and Dewey Redman.
Made-came into fullness quite unexpectedly at rehearsal through rhythmic impressions of Art's drumming. Together we developed the form to its completion based on that rhythmic idea. The title "Made," came from our realization that on one particular gig situation we could do no wrong, we were "Made." That fact has stayed with the band.
Dare Devils: A song that was influenced by Sonny Stitt. He would have loved the exotic fast moving blues changes.
Duke's Choice: A song by Charles Mingus that sings his haunting style. Though dedicated to his mentor, "Duke Ellington," it echos the purity of Mingus' concept, rooted strongly in the blues with a theme that becomes unforgettable.
Steps- is purely original, it forces its way into an energetic ride across the bars in the 7/4 melody and opens the door to an almost free improvisation. It is the longest track in this collection but well worth the listening experience. Don Alberts
Article by Sonny Buxton:
If there had not been an economic crunch on clubs throughout the country in the middle of the last century, we may never have seen the emergence of the sound of the "TRIO." The retreat of the big bands, the return of the combo, and its resulting popularity, by necessity, created a need for the smallest of compact units to be able to deliver a satisfying alternative to the loss of the big bands. The smaller swing bands, such as those led by John Kirby, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman were successful for hotel starlight venues. However, few smaller units could match the musical and entertainment quality of the groups led by Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan. They were both highly skilled instrumentalists, vocalists, and artists eager to please their fans. On the other side of the coin were the adventurers, the rebels, the be-boppers. These smaller groups were also made up of highly skilled musicians, playing a brand of music not designed for the masses. They excluded dancers, demanded the audience to listen, and stretched the musical boundaries to the limit. The be-boppers quickly developed a cult-like following and were accused of creating the music that killed the big swing bands. They survived the acrimony, and carved their own individual niche. In the middle of small swing bands, rhythm and blues groups, bebop quintets, there slipped in a little group that would be become the cornerstone within all musical genres: the trio. The King Cole Trio, in my estimation, is the benchmark for all musicians aspiring to perform in a three person setting. From the outset, they were entertaining, swinging, and true innovators in an historical context. Their harmonic structures within the melody were challenging, yet not so far flung that the they lost touch with the audience. Nat Cole was one of the great jazz piano players, and not a bad singer. His trio, with the piano, bass, guitar and vocal, was copied worldwide by thousands of musicians; not just in structure, but note for note. Not to be ignored was the size of the Cole led group and the instrumentation - ideal for saloons and lounges. Listening closely to a real trio in action is an adventure unto itself. Whether it be the King Cole Trio, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, or Keith Jarrett, one is struck by the discovery of the ability to surrender within the tight confines of a small band. It does mean giving it up, playing as one for the benefit of the group. There is one standard piece of advice for would-be musicians in a trio setting: Listen, and then, play your instrument. Being a member of a trio is no easy task. Many qualified musicians wash out and never return to the format. You will hear the same refrain from those who have abandoned the notion: "I couldn't get with that, or those cats" - "I couldn't feel it" - "it just didn't work for me" - "I felt naked up there" - "I need more." Most excuses for wanting out of the trio are centered around "me." There is no "me" in the trio. That is exactly what makes it stand apart from most contemporary bands. The Bay Area based, Alberts/Russo Trio, is the real deal. As in the profiles of outstanding trios from the past, the trio is their choice and their passion. You will hear the history of this small unit form in tact. They are adventurous harmonic-ally, the melodies are original, they swing, and they are entertaining. The CD is titled, "The Bad Boys." This is not to be confused with another popular style of commercial recordings. Alberts/Russo have their analysis for the title, and I have mine: In the vernacular of the tried and true - they are "Bad cats" - indeed. I hope you will take time to listen, as I have, and enjoy the music these fine musicians have put together.
Sonny Buxton KCSM Jazz Radio FM 91 San Mateo, Ca.