Russ Little (trombonist, composer, arranger, conductor) was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1941. He was raised on the island of Jamaia for the first few years of his life before moving back to Canada to attend Malvern Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto where in 1966 he attained his honours degree in the Humanities, with special emphasis on History and English. It was during his time at Malvern Collegiate that he was taught trombone and inspired by the legendary teacher, trombonist George M. McRae.
While studying at the University of Toronto with Ward Cole (conducting) and Godfrey (Ridout composition), he played in hotel orchestras and with an R&B band, the Silhouettes. After graduation he worked in the big bands of Woody Herman (USA and Europe 1967, 1968), Slide Hampton (Belgium 1968), and Ted Heath (England 1968), and was a member 1969-70 of Lighthouse and 1972 to 1975 of Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass. He also has led or played in Toronto studio orchestras and appeared with small bands in the city’s jazz clubs. In 1990 he introduced the Russ Little Big Band, which played his arrangements of the standard jazz repertoire at Rockit and other Toronto nightspots. Of Little’s jazz trombone style, Peter Goddard wrote: ‘Its roots lie somewhere in bop by way of rhythm and blues, with a funky, edgy tone that bites little phrases out. With a small group his solos swarm with notes, looping in and around a melody line’.
Little was music director for many Canadian TV variety series in the late 1970s and the 1980s (eg, CTV’s ‘The Patsy Gallant Show,’ ‘Shake, Rock and Roll,’ and ‘Circus’) and served in similar roles for the Miss Canada and Miss Teen Canada pageants (some 15 years each) and industrial shows. His compositions include Black Hallelujah(a collaboration with Norman Symonds, telecast by the CBC in 1971), Cosmic Orpheus (commissioned and 1974-5 performed by the New York City Ballet), scores for film and TV documentaries and features, TV signature tunes and incidental music, jingles, and songs recorded by Salome Bey (‘Try,’ ‘Paper Man,’ etc), Dusty Springfield, and others. Little’s own recordings include CBC broadcast LPs in the LM series and albums with the Boss Brass and Lighthouse. Russ Little also wrote and recorded the theme song for the famous “SCTV” comedy sitcom.