Russ Little | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Russ Little

Russell Scott Mario Little, trombonist, composer, arranger, conductor (born 13 December 1941 in Toronto, ON).

Russ (Russell Scott Mario) Little. Trombonist, composer, arranger, conductor, b Toronto 13 Dec 1941; B MUS (Toronto) 1967. While studying at the University of Toronto with Ward Cole (conducting) and Godfrey Ridout (composition), he played in hotel orchestras and with an R&B band, the Silhouettes. After graduation he worked in the big bands of Woody Herman (USA and Europe 1967, 1968), Slide Hampton (Belgium 1968), and Ted Heath (England 1968), and was a member 1969-70 of Lighthouse and 1972-5 of the Boss Brass. He also has led or played in Toronto studio orchestras and appeared with small bands in the city's jazz clubs. In 1990 he introduced the Russ Little Big Band, which played his arrangements of the standard jazz repertoire at Rockit and other Toronto nightspots. Of Little's jazz trombone style, Peter Goddard wrote: 'Its roots lie somewhere in bop by way of rhythm and blues, with a funky, edgy tone that bites little phrases out. With a small group his solos swarm with notes, looping in and around a melody line'.

Little was music director for many Canadian TV variety series in the late 1970s and the 1980s (eg, CTV's 'The Patsy Gallant Show,' 'Shake, Rock and Roll,' and 'Circus') and served in similar roles for the Miss Canada and Miss Teen Canada pageants (some 15 years each) and industrial shows. His compositions include Black Hallelujah (a collaboration with Norman Symonds, telecast by the CBC in 1971), Cosmic Orpheus (commissioned and 1974-5 performed by the New York City Ballet), scores for film and TV documentaries and features, TV signature tunes and incidental music, jingles, and songs recorded by Salome Bey ('Try,' 'Paper Man,' etc), Dusty Springfield, and others. Little's own recordings include CBC broadcast LPs in the LM series and albums with the Boss Brass and Lighthouse.

Little's brother is the tenor and soprano saxophonist Michael (Willis) Stuart (b Annotto Bay, Jamaica, 2 Dec 1948), who moved to Toronto in 1969. Stuart toured Europe in the summers of 1977 and 1978 with the US drummer Elvin Jones and has played locally with Little, Keith Blackley, Sonny Greenwich, Hagood Hardy, Ted Moses, Doug Riley, Rick Tait, and others. His discography includes The Michael Stuart Quartet Live at Bracknell (1982, RCI 544) in the fusion style and The Blessing (1987, Unity 107) documenting John Coltrane's influence, as well as Remembrance (1978, MPS 15523) with Jones, Determination (1979, Endeavour 1001) with Blackley, and others with Sadik Hakim, Hardy, Riley and Don (W.) Thompson.

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