Lee Russo grew up in North Chatham, New York. He became interested in music at a young age. Lee was inspired by his father, Leo Russo who is also a saxophonist and a longtime Albany legend. Leo introduced the music of Stan Getz to Lee and soon after that Lee heard the Miles Davis Quintet recording "Friday Night at the Blackhawk" and fell in love with tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley. Inevitably, Lee became hooked on the saxophone and jazz.
Immediately following high school Lee started his undergraduate studies at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. It was there that he began studying saxophone from Paul Evoskevich and later began improvisation lessons from guitarist Jack Fragomeni. During this time Lee also had the opportunity of playing in the Saint Rose Jazz Ensemble and working under the direction of many guest artists/clinicians which included Bob Mintzer, Claudio Roditi, Bill Watrous, Bill Cinliffe, Chris Vadala, Renee Rosness, Rufus Reid, Akira Tana and Nick Brignola. After two years at CSR, Lee spent a year working as a mail courier, teaching private lessons and playing gigs with some local big bands and combos and then transferred to The Crane School of Music (SUNY Potsdam).
At Crane Lee studied with saxophonist Bob Faub and jazz trombonist Brett Zvacek. He also had the great pleasure of working in master classes/clinics with guest artists Donald Sinta, Hal Galper, Jerry Bergonzi, The New York Hardbop Quintet, Kenny Wheeler and Dave Demsey. While at Crane Lee met long time friends Nick Mancini (vibraphone) and Lou Smaldone (bass) and had the opportunity to play as a trio at many functions in the Potsdam and Albany areas. After receiving his degree from SUNY Potsdam, Lee Russo began teaching music in the Niskayuna Central School District in Niskayuna, NY. He taught there for two years and then took a high school position at Guilderland High School in Guilderland Center, NY where he currently directs two jazz ensembles and concert band. He also teaches woodwind lessons and music technology.
Currently, Lee works regularly with Joe Barna's group which ranges from organ trio to sextet. He leads his own trio with Lou Smaldone on bass and Joe Barna on drums and he has occasional gigs with Teresa Broadwell's Thrivin' on a Riff.
Lee lives in Albany, NY with his lovely and patient wife Judith and his two beautiful daughters Natalie (6) and Emily (3).
Other playing experience includes:
Teresa Broadwell's Thrivin'on a Riff, Cliff Brucker Duo/Trio, Out Of Control Rhythm and Blues Band, Direct Drive, Empire Jazz Orchestra (included guest artists: Slide Hampton, Randy Brecker, Wycliffe Gordon, Byron Stripling, Rufus Reid, and Lew Soloff), Capital District Jazz Ensemble led by Leo Russo, Leo Russo Octet, Leo Russo Quartet, Mike Benedict Big Band, Mike Benedict Quartet/Quintet, Mike Wicks Sextet, Jazz Factor led by Paul Supple, Pete Sweeney Quartet, Adrian Cohen Quartet, Joe Barna Trio/Quartet/Quintet, Nick Mancini Trio/Quartet, Carnival Cruise Lines (Performer on the M.S. Ecstasy -summer 1995) and woodwind player for many Capital Region shows.
Additional experience in education:
Current private saxophone studio, jazz ensemble director at Clarkson University (1994-95), jazz improvisation clinics in the Shenendehowa, East Greenbush, Guilderland and Niskayuna Central School Districts, All-County Wind Ensemble(Green County)(2000), Area All-State Jazz Ensemble (Zone 7)(2003) and currently scheduled to direct the All-County (Columbia County) Jazz Ensemble this coming October.