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Russ Kassoff

August 5, 2022 at 12:30 pm

New York City’s finest ragtime, stride, and jazz pianists perform weekdays on the Upper Terrace. Find the full schedule here.
 

Russ Kassoff

Trio & Solo Jazz, Broadway, Music Director

“You are the best!” - Frank Sinatra 

Russ Kassoff has always enjoyed his stints at Piano in Bryant Park each year since 2011! Now that live music is slowly returning to normal, Russ has resumed playing trio and solo jazz concerts, clubs, festivals, master classes, private parties, and even concerts as conductor/pianist to the legendary Rita Moreno with her heartfelt and sumptuous autobiographical shows. In 2020 Russ performed 100 consecutive days of solo mini-concerts on Facebook for his loyal and discerning fans! Online concerts are planned moving forward! The virtual world has created opportunities for musicians to perform for selective audiences and Russ has appeared on Zoom, Music On The Inside, featured in the Virtual SUCP Potsdam - Crane school of music reunion, and soloed as part of the Great American Songbook Series created by Michael Feinstein. 

This summer Russ will be returning for a very special engagement as one of five music directors for a fifth year, with Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook Academy summer intensive series in Carmel, Indiana. The magical event was virtually produced on the internet and this year goes back to being live!. Each MD mentors eight incredibly talented high school students attending several individual and group sessions, master classes, and they all will perform online for all the world to see! 

In 2022 and 2021 Russ has enjoyed touring and concertizing as MD/pianist on several concerts with The Marvelous Marilyn Maye - now at 94 years young an American treasure! Russ has also played several concerts with Michael Feinstein. In May he is scheduled to MD/conduct a wonderful big band for Tony winner Debbie Gravitte and David Lawrence performing “A Toast To Steve & Eydie” featuring all the original arrangements from the golden 60’s! (Don Costa, Marion Evans, Al Cohn, Nick Perito, Pat Williams to name a few). 

In 2019 he performed as MD/Pianist to Lainie Kazan in a sold out three-night engagement at Feinstein’s 54 Below and a return engagement is on the calendar for the fall. In 2018 Russ became Musical Director/Pianist to Eddie Brigati of the Rascals. The show performed each month at the Cutting Room. It was called After The Rascals. Russ performed several gigs in jazz clubs such as Shanghai Jazz in Madison, NJ, Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack and the Division Street Grill in Peekskill to celebrate 99-year-old bass legend Jerry Bruno’s nearing 100 years young. Sadly, he graduated to the next realm on June 22, 2020. In 2017, Russ went into the recording studio as Pianist/Conductor/Arranger for Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte and the Russ Kassoff Big Band, for an exciting and wonderful new recording called Big Band Broadway! It is available and spectacular! 

Past appearances include: 2017 - two sold out performances with Rita Moreno @ The elegant “Feinstein’s at the Nikko” in San Francisco; 2016 - Tour of the Pacific Northwest with Rita Moreno in the fall; Spectacular Big Band Concerts with Debbie Gravitte at The Catalina Club in L.A. (2018); Birdland in NYC (2017) New Haven and Tulsa; regular duo appearances at the Knickerbocker in NYC; Shanghai Jazz in Madison, NJ; and several concerts with the RKBB (Russ Kassoff Big Band). In 2015 Russ was the Leader of the “House Band” for The Sinatra 100 Concert - 100 songs selected and hosted by The Jonathan Channel’s legendary Jonathan Schwartz, at Symphony Space, featuring countless terrific performers - including Tierney Sutton, Marilyn Maye, Tony Danza, Rebecca Luker, Kate Davis, Angel Reda, Karen Wyman, Julian Fleisher and Storm Large; In 2012 he was Music Director for the Pasadena Symphony & Pops concert in memory of Marvin Hamlisch; In 2010 he was Conductor/Pianist on Broadway in Twyla Tharp’s critically acclaimed Come Fly Away, featuring 15 magnificent dancers accompanied by a 19 piece big-band playing live to the voice of Frank Sinatra. Broadway also saw Russ as Music/Director/Conductor/Pianist for Charles Aznavour in ’98; pianist to Frank Sinatra by request from ’80 -’91 - including the Ultimate Event tour with Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Liza Minnelli; he served as Pianist/Accompanist for Liza Minnelli from ’82 -’01 and was Minnelli’s Music Director and Conductor for the highly acclaimed Minnelli on Minnelli National Tour (’00); In ‘07, Russ appeared as a featured guest on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR. 

Since 2003 Russ has been Music Director/Pianist to Rita Moreno and has been a featured performer for 30+ years at the acclaimed Knickerbocker in NYC. He gratefully had a 35+- year association with the late great Jazz legend Bucky Pizzarelli, having played a concert at the Tribeca PAC in early 2018 to honor Bucky’s 92nd Birthday! Unfortunately, Bucky and his beautiful bride of over 60 years Ruth both graduated in April of 2020 due to covid-19. 

Russ’s current CD Bird Fly By achieved #1 status on Music Choice, was in the top-10 for over a year and has received much critical acclaim. A new CD - I Can Dream - is scheduled to be released digitally in the near future, with featured players Jay Anderson on bass and Dennis Mackrel on drums. 

Looking forward to a triumphant return to Bryant Park the week of August 1 (Sing-A-Long August 4). Russ hopes that with the easing of the pandemic he will be playing jazz gigs, shows and cabaret gigs in various and sundry venues.  Those of us who share our talents very much need to return to a semblance of normalcy.

Russ’s wonderful streaming radio show, The Jazz Deli with Russ Kassoff had been streaming live, each Saturday, from 10am to Noon. Russ continues to produce BRAND NEW pre-recorded shows in his own bunker each week - streaming brand new worldwide every Saturday from 10AM - noon! Each week just go to WFDU.FM and click on “Listen to HD2” every Saturday from 10AM - noon. You will be given a player to hear the program instantly. The show features recordings, with no more than 2 degrees of separation, involving Russ’s eclectic and grateful career in many facets of music and show business. Stories abound! “Our tongue sandwiches speak for themselves!” You can also listen to each week’s show any time you wish by going to WFDU.FM, click on HD2 Archives, click on the drop-down menu of dates to either of the previous two Saturdays, and select the Jazz Deli at 10AM! 

Make sure to visit www.russkassoff.com to check the calendar for all of Russ’s eclectic NY Metro area appearances. Regular updates can be found each week on FaceBook @ https://www.facebook.com/russ.kassoff.1/

Thank you for the music!

Many thanks to Sam Ash Music Stores for their support through the years.

Pianist Frank Owens sits at the piano in Bryant Park NYC with a crowd of listeners.