Frank Russell Band
Perhaps best known as the long-serving electric bassist in bands led by the legendary pianist Ken Chaney and Chicago soul jazz guitarist Henry Johnson, Frank Russell has been stepping out on his own in recent years, bringing his hard-hitting, funky style to a wide variety of material. Most recently he released the crisp fusion record Circle Without End in 2011, enlisting an all-star lineup including Johnson, trumpeters Wallace Roney and Corey Wilkes, fellow bassist Darryl Jones, and, keyboardist Robert Irving III, among others. As Neil Tesser has written in the Examiner, “Russell’s personal history takes him from the first flower of fusion – when Miles was blowing the doors off the jazz mainstream with such albums as Bitches Brew and later Decoy – into the ‘contemporary’ jazz genre,” and all such facets are covered here, including some R&B vocal excursions and even a tribute to the South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo (with whom he toured for six years).
The festival has rarely presented groups led by electric bassists, and Russell will certainly tap into electricity to kick off Saturday’s festivities with a bang. He leads most of the same killer players that appear on his latest recording: guitarist Marco Villarreal, keyboardist Vijay Tellis-Nayak, saxophonist Tim McNamara, percussionist Dede Sampaio, and drummer Robert Gates. For this afternoon’s performance Russell will mix tunes from Circle Without End as well as debut album as a leader, Covering All Basses.