Straight from the Heart
Email contact: RussellsAlbum@Yahoo.com Great music doesn't work to a timeline and in the case of Russell, time-in and 16 tracks later, he's delivered an album as timeless as the jazz itself Passion, persistence and the pursuit of a dream has realised a recognised new talent who's turning heads and making contemporary jazz even more inviting thanks to a debut album, Straight From The Heart, that's been a long time in coming, but no less welcome now that it's finally arrived. At the age of 45 this free spirit is no stranger to the world of music. "I have been dancing since the age of 19, Russell explains. "I've danced jazz for the past 26 years, Latin for two, Salsa for four and Tango for about the same length of time." Having grown up listening to the likes of Shakatak, Sade, Teddy Pendergrass, Simply Red, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Incognito, Barry White and Lionel Richie motivation was never far off when it came to needing inspiration to, at first dance, and now today sing and perform music uniquely his own, either in lyric or interpretation. Born and raised in Wittebome, Wynberg in the Western Cape Russell's first introduction came from his grandfather who played the violin with friends. It wasn't until an aunt allowed him to play a guitar she owned and a cousin showed him a few chords that Russell was hooked. "In an unconscious way my family's interest in music definitely got me excited enough about it to want to learn more," he smiles. A natural talent, Russell plays by ear and today is a proficient rhythm guitarist, all without a day's formal training. Listening and playing up-tempo beat-driven jazz, the music that makes up Straight From The Heart is anchored in easy listening jazz of the pop variety, so much so that the album's first single "Sweeter Than Honey" has enjoyed high rotation radio play on Heart FM. An avid sports fan, Russell's life is full of diversity, fuelling his palette of references in all areas of life. Having flirted with a professional soccer career, dancing, singing and playing music today he's successfully balanced it all and still holds down a full-time job. "I had a soccer injury which prevented me from playing soccer and this freed up my time," he adds. "Secondly my work changed, I was not learning and not being challenged enough, so after I paid off the bond on my house my mind opened up to the possibilities of what I could do with my music in a formal, ultimately full-time way." Having always dreamed of writing, recording and releasing his own music Russell's journey to self realisation has taken him on a path where today he's a truly committed musician. From midi samples to full-blown arrangements, Russell's patience and passion paid off when Straight From The Heart took shape. "When I contemplated the album I had 9 songs stuck on my wall," he explains. These songs had been written more than 15 years ago, but they still sounded entirely relevant." Some twelve months later Russell had ten songs entirely composed along with his good friend, fellow musician and arranger Tony Drake. "The next year was spent approaching local artist to feature on my album," he adds. "Over the many years I jazz'd at The Galaxy I heard many artists perform and contacted many of them as the genre of music they were playing was very similar to mine." After a 10 year lapse in composing, Russell began writing again, producing more songs specifically with these artists in mind. "I also wanted to make the album a little more up-tempo," he interjects. I then took the album to radio stations to got feedback and used this to further improve the album. I spent another six months changing some of the songs based on the recommendations made by all who had heard the music." Forever the perfectionist, Russell took no less than a further three months to tweak the songs, adding greater texture and building on what was already there. "I would listen to songs for up to two weeks in my car and identify more layers that could be added to make the song sound fuller and then go back into the recording studio," he explains. "I would not have been able to achieve this without the help and experience of Tony [Drake] and the many talented artists who contributed with their creative input. It was a conscious decision that I asked the artists for their creative input as I wanted each song on my album to have it's distinctness." And so Straight From The Heart was born. A work neatly integrated around an invisible timeline that dictated that all 16 would see the light of day when they were nothing short of brilliant. "Initially I just wanted to record an album with songs that were special to me," he admits. "On certain songs, the artists I worked with each contributed to pushing the songs beyond my wildest expectations, all thanks to their collective talent and musical ability." The end result is a disc filled with rich personality, real ability and a big dose of commercial appeal. With 16 tracks realised lyrically and musically from Russell's dynamic book of life experience, each plays out chapter-and-verse from a very personal place. "Songs are like bookmarks in my journal of life," he concurs. Hopefully they will speak for me long after I am gone. The biggest challenge for any song writer is to capture something that's intangible and intense and give it life in the form of a song." So as Russell continues to engulf himself in anything and everything cross-over be it jazz funk, pop, Latin, salsa and reggaton, his album reflects his eclectic interests and clear aptitude whilst showcasing where he may choose to play in bigger way. ""Everybody" has a Caribbean feel," he points out. "I have also included Spanish lyrics on "Everybody" and "Do Da Salsa" too." What's even more interesting is 11 of the 16 songs on Straight From The Heart are sung by others artists. "I have already completed a complete salsa song," he adds, "which I hope to include on my next album." Happy, humble and hugely talented, Russell, having delivered the first of a hopeful many albums has taken a journey in music and has arrived at his first port of call with a cargo of 16 truly memorable gems. What lies ahead? Only time will tell, but for those who take it to bond with Straight From The Heart, all will be rewarded with music that's as enduring as it's maker.