Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Gershon grew up in Queens NY and Westport CT and played violin, piano and guitar as a child. After hearing Rahsaan Roland Kirk (live) and John Coltrane (on record) he took up saxophone at the age of 17. He moved to Cambridge Mass. in 1977 to attend Harvard U., from which he graduated with honors in philosophy. He worked as jazz director at radio station WHRB, producing or presenting comprehensive programs on the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) (78 hours in length), Charles Mingus (52 hours), Ornette Coleman (52 hours) and Bebop (127 hours) and many shorter programs. After playing saxophone in several successful original rock bands from 1979-84, Gershon attended Berklee College of Music from 1984-85, studying saxophone and theory with Bill Pierce, Ken Pullig and Donald Brown. He also studied privately with Bob Mover and Jerry Bergonzi.
Inspired by Gil Evans, Sun Ra and Charles Mingus, Gershon began the Either/Orchestra in 1985 as a rehearsal band. The group began performing (1985), then recording (1986), releasing its first lp (1987), and touring (1988). The group has become "the leading little big-band in the jazz world," according to the Boston Globe.
The E/O was originally 11 pieces in the 80s, and has been 10 pieces throughout the 90s. It was originally two trumpets, two bones, three saxes, guitar, piano, bass and drums. From 1990-96, it was minus guitar. From 1997-98, it was minus one trombone, but a second bass was added. Since 1999, the second bass has gone and congas have been added.
Drawing on the methods he learned in the indie rock world, Gershon began leading the E/O on van tours of the US, bringing their brand of cutting-edge jazz to many places which had few opportunities to hear such music. In this way, the group pioneered a grass-routs touring circuit which jazz artists like Medeski Martin and Wood, Gerry Hemingway and Tim Berne are now traveling. In 1987, Gershon founded Accurate Records to put out the first Either/Orchestra album, and the label has since put out over 70 CDs and become one of the leading small jazz labels in the US.
Gershon has taught jazz history at Harvard (1993-94), and acted as artist-in-residence or visiting clinician at Harvard, Berklee, the New England Conservatory, the University of Iowa, the Wichita Jazz Festival, the Unversity of Virginia and a number of other colleges, high schools and elementary schools. He has performed with headliners like Cab Calloway, Wildman Fisher, Morphine and the Four Tops, as well as doing session work for rock and jazz groups, commercials and film soundtracks.
In 1992, Gershon was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category "Best Arrangement on an Instrumental," for his composition "Bennie Moten's Weird Nightmare," recorded by the Either/Orchestra.
Bob Rusch: The Questionnaire. Russ Gershon, in: Cadence, 17/4 (Apr.1991)
Norman Provizer: Profile. Either/Orchestra, in: Jazziz, 12/4 (Apr.1995)
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Accurate Records web site
Either-Orchestra web site