Russell Ferrante’s first exposure to music came from his church, where his father was the choir director, a vocal soloist and member of a gospel quartet. He began piano lessons at the age of nine, and moved into taking lessons from local Jazz musicians as a teenager. He read jazz theory books, listened to favorite recordings and transcribed songs and solos.
“The first recording that really got me excited about being a musician was ‘Swiss Movement’ by Les McCann and Eddie Harris. I loved the way the musicians combined jazz, R&B and gospel music. This marriage of jazz and R&B was something I heard a lot around San Jose where I grew up. One musician in particular, Clifford Coulter, greatly inspired me. At around the same time, I was introduced to John Coltrane's ‘My Favorite Things’ and various recordings by Miles Davis. I didn't understand that music at all but nonetheless, I immediately loved it!”
Ferrante is best known in the jazz world as Yellowjackets keyboardist. As one of the founding musicians of the band, he has been recording and performing with the group since the late 70s. Recent releases include the spontaneous and musically rich Blue Hats, and their latest studio recording, Club Nocturne.
Ferrante has written and produced records for Bobby McFerrin, Michael Franks, Sadao Watanabe, Marilyn Scott, Eric Marianthal, and Sergio Salvatore, among others. He also has arranged for Take 6, The GRP Big Band, Lee Ritenour, and many others. He is active in musical projects of a much smaller scale. One such project was a local production of Really Rosie by children in his community, for which he was the musical director.
Ferrante is an avid bicyclist and an incurable NBA fan, having played one year of basketball at San Jose State University before music really took hold of him. He lives in California with his wife of 20 years, his teenage daughter, three cats and a dog.