The Window (1993)
By Ralph Burnett
It was a comfortably warm summer evening at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Southern California and Kenny Loggins had the audience of thousands under his musical spell like so many times before. For those who can actually afford the "good" seats at a venue like this in an entertainment industry infested metropolises (such as L.A.), you often find yourself suffocating in a sea of "comp" seats (seats purchased by the record company on behalf of the artist), occupied by movers and shakers (and industry fakers), whose resonant conversations spill over onto several rows in each direction, providing an added bonus to the price of admission -- (that is if you're one of the "comps"). When intermission arrived on this particular night, several conversations within my ear shot swung around to "that smokin' sax player . . ." and "that burnin' solo on 'Celebrate Me Home'," as if they had witnessed the death, burial, and resurrection of the 'G' man.
I suspect that only the jazz-hip portion of the Loggins audience recognized Marc Russo as the longtime sax player with the Yellowjackets, a group that during his tenure recorded and performed half a dozen albums of which most were nominated for Grammy's and two were winners. "The birth of my son in 1986 started me thinking," says Marc. "I spent upwards of 200 days plus out on the road (and even more some years), and felt I really wasn't in control of my own existence. I felt that I did want to do a solo record, I wanted to spend more time at home with my family and I wanted to re-define myself . . . actually, I wanted to find out who I really was. I felt like I was personally loosing my own inner identity. Musically the 'Jackets were smokin' and I felt we were making a really great statement but I wanted to write more music and I felt to do it honestly, to give myself the best opportunity, I should focus one-hundred percent on it. So all those things led me to change my course."
With the release of The Window (JVC 2035-2), Marc Russo's new focus has been fully realized. In the liner notes, Marc explains the album's title as "the moments in life when you have to make choices. Do you look out the window and enjoy the view or do you go outside and play the game?" Marc further illustrates his point, "there's a rock station here [in the San Francisco bay area] that says 'if you don't like the news you hear, go out and make some of your own.' I found a window of opportunity and instead of looking out and viewing the world, I chose to go outside and make a little noise."
With Marc's depth of talent, emotional delivery and uniquely recognizable sound, this album is poised to 'make a lot of noise.' Other than Yellowjacket drummer William Kennedy, Russo chose to work with a new cast including Steve George (Mr. Mister) and long time friend Ray Obiedo. "When I left the band, Wil said 'you better call me when you do your solo project.' So he kind of paid me some money and I said, sure! (Marc laughs) . . . No! For me Wil's the drummer that fits the way I express my music--he's able to play jazz but he still has that funk snap and he has his own voice which is really apparent to me."
"One of the hard things about doing instrumental music, especially the kind I'm making, is what to call it," comments Russo. "It's not jazz, but it falls under the jazz category by today's terminology (I guess). There's not enough urban for it to go urban, it's instrumental so it really can't go rock, it's not jazz though there are some elements of jazz on the record, and it may not be pop enough for it to be adult contemporary. All I know is that it's music that comes from within me, it's honest, I'm not formulating anything, and when people get a chance to hear it, they like it. So I know that there is a place for it."
Aside from touring and recording with Kenny Loggins since 1986 and Huey Lewis and the News as a member of Tower of Power since 1981, Russo has also added his signature sax sound to an impressive list of clients including Narada Michael Walden, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Nicks, Carlos Santana, Bob Segar, Laura Branigan, Tom Fogerty, Lee Ritenour, Richard Marx, Michael Bolton, Wilson Phillips and Lionel Ritchie.