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Performance of the Month - Russell Ferrante and Bob Mintzer

Uploaded On:  Tuesday October 1, 2019

Born in San Jose, California in 1952, Russell Ferrante began studying piano at the age of 9 years old. His early musical experiences revolved around the church where his father was the choir master. His interest in jazz and improvisation was kindled in high school and shortly thereafter he began performing with various R&B and jazz groups in the San Francisco Bay Area. This exposure to seemingly every kind of music helped prepare Russell for his professional career which began in 1973. It was then that he met guitarist, Robben Ford and toured the U.S. and Europe as part of legendary blues singer, Jimmy Witherspoon’s band. Russell moved to San Francisco in 1975 where he continued to be active on the vibrant local music scene.

In 1977 Russell moved to Los Angeles in order to continue working with Robben Ford. Within a short time, he was recording and touring with a variety of musicians including Robben, Joe Farrell, Tom Scott, and Joni Mitchell. It was during this period that Russell, Robben and Jimmy Haslip co-founded the jazz group, Yellowjackets. It was also during this time that he began working as a freelance writer, arranger and producer for numerous recordings including those by Bobby McFerrin, Michael Franks, Al Jarreau and many others. Presently, Russell continues his 25-year association with Yellowjackets who concertize and conduct clinics worldwide. From their inception in 1980, Yellowjackets have recorded sixteen albums, receiving thirteen Grammy nominations, and winning two awards -- Best R&B Instrumental Performance (1986) and Best Contemporary Jazz Performance (1989). They also wrote and performed music for the motion picture Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home. Russell is currently an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.


Bob Mintzer leads several musical lives that, at times, seem humanly impossible for one person to sustain. He is a 20-year member of the Yellowjackets, leads his own Grammy-winning big band, is the recipient of the Buzz McCoy endowed chair of jazz studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, does workshops all over the world, writes books on jazz, writes for orchestra, concert band, and big band, travels with his own quartet, and plays with numerous other bands around the globe. He is equally active in the composing, performing and educational fields.

Bob has written over 200 big band arrangements. His big band music is played over the world and has influenced numerous big band writers. He honed his big band writing and playing skills in the bands of Tito Puente, Buddy Rich, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis. He has also written works for the National Symphony Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra of the Netherlands. WDR Big Band in Cologne, HR Big Band in Frankfurt and was commissioned to write a piece for concert band and tenor sax (“Go”) by a consortium of 50 universities.

As an instrumentalist, Bob has worked with Art Blakey, Jaco Pastorius, Sam Jones, Randy Brecker, Gil Evans, the Yellowjackets, GRP All Star Big Band, Mike Manieri, The New York Philharmonic, to name a few. He has done session work for James Taylor, Steve Winwood, Queen, Donald Fagan, Milton Nascimento, and countless others. Bob has recorded some 30 solo projects and was awarded with four Grammy nominations and a Grammy award for best large jazz ensemble recording in 2001 for Homage to Count Basie on the DMP label.

Bob currently resides in Los Angeles in the former house of composer Arnold Schoenberg (his first LA residence, 1934-1936), teaches at USC, travels 4 months out of the year, and, when at home, writes and practices constantly.

This performance was originally recorded live on July 27, 2019, at Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, CA.
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