I’m happy to see Russell Scarbrough leading his big band and writing music with such care and passion and with such incredible instrumentalists. He is truly a musician’s musician with a lot to offer our community. I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with him and highly regard his musicianship. Looking forward for more to come!
Terri Lyne Carrington, Grammy-winning drummer, Berklee College of Music
Russell Scarbrough’s compositions and arrangements communicate not only a love of the big band tradition but also a contemporary sensibility that speaks to finding a personal voice in 2023. And beyond musical craftsmanship and the technical wizardry of recording the players remotely during the pandemic, what is most striking about Fun Times is the music’s generous emotional expression, its fundamental optimism. Scarbrough is not naïve about the state of the world, but he knows that joy is a quality we could all use more of in our lives.
Mark Stryker, Jazz from Detroit (Univ. of Michigan Press)
The scope of the writing made listening to it much like reading a "page-turner" — lots of nice surprises amid logical development and pacing of events. The record deserves to be heard.
Harold Danko, Pianist, composer, and educator (Steeplechase Records, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Woody Herman)
[Scarbrough's] brand-new album shows just how much he knows about the big band tradition. The instrumental colors are appealing and the band is hot.
Ethan Iverson, Pianist, composer, and writer (Transitional Technology, The Bad Plus)
Fun Times must have been fun to record as well as fun to play. Scarbrough clearly has an original voice, and uses it wisely on every number. The ensembles—even though uncoupled—are exemplary, the album itself a pleasure to gauge and admire. (Jack Bowers, AllAboutJazz.com)
When he’s not offering lush orchestrations on beautiful ballads like “Spiral Song,” Scarbrough delivers an irresistible mix of jazz and funk on tunes like “Max-Q.” [...] Scarbrough’s joyous music may be viewed as an antidote to the chaotic state of the world. (Ron Netsky, Rochester CITY)
The long-awaited debut album by the Russell Scarbrough Big Band FUN TIMES was released on June 1, 2023 on Bandcamp. The 10 tracks on this album were recorded remotely during the pandemic, and features jazz luminaries such as Jim Pugh on trombone (Steely Dan, Woody Herman), the late Ralph Humphrey on drums (Frank Zappa, Don Ellis), Clay Jenkins on trumpet (Clayton-Hamilton Big Band, Count Basie), Rich Thompson on drums (Marian McPartland, Count Basie), Matt Vashlishan on saxophone (Dave Liebman), among other heavyweights from NYC, LA, and around the world.
Scarbrough's motto is, “If it's not fun, we're not doing it right!”. For this special project, he used 44 musicians over a span of 20 months to record some of the most fun, adventurous big band music heard in years. The narrative arc of the album serves as an antidote to the constant bad news and dark rhetoric most endured during the pandemic. Scarbrough says, “Fun times…said only with the bitterest of irony. Yet in the midst of all this, making music was the catalyst for hope.”
FUN TIMES revels in big band rock and funk (with a sci-fi vibe), with a generous helping of swaggering, guitar-laced blues. A spirit of exuberant, energetic optimism pervades the album, interwoven with quieter moments evoking nostalgia, wide-eyed wonder, and hope. It's a message Scarbrough believes is best proclaimed through the classic jazz ensemble of brass and reeds. But it’s a big band of the 21st century, and Scarbrough speaks a contemporary jazz language.
FUN TIMES even includes the rarest of modern jazz expressions: slapstick humor. Scarbrough makes a cameo as a “lecturer” on the track “Startups”, delivering Twitter-inspired snark courtesy of “The Daily Show” comedy writer Jason O. Gilbert.
Russell Scarbrough is based in Rochester, NY, where his 18-piece band performs his innovative large ensemble music. Its various sub-units perform soul-jazz or the classic big band vocals of 1960’s Vegas. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, he directs the jazz ensembles at Houghton University and Canisius University in western New York.
FUN TIMES on Bandcamp: http://russellscarbrough.bandcamp.com