Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Sussman, Richard

Sussman, Richard, pianist, keyboards, composer, arranger, educator; b. Philadelphia, PA, 28 February 1946.  Lived in suburban Philadelphia with his father, Rudolph (a psychologist and professor at Univ of Pennsylvania), mother, Helen, and one brother, Andrew until 1963.  Graduated from Abington High School, 1963. 

Studied classical piano as a child, first became interested in jazz while in high school.  First jazz studies with French born jazz pianist Bernard Peiffer and well-known jazz guitarist/educator Dennis Sandole in Philadelphia while still in high school.  Formed Jazz Club at Abington High School.  Played sessions and gigs with local Phila musicians including Randy Brecker.  Attended Swarthmore College from 1963-66.  In 1967 moved to New York City and joined the innovative jazz-rock band The Elephants Memory (1968-69). In 1970 moved to San Francisco and performed and recorded with various Bay Area rock musicians including Marty Balin of the Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe McDonald.  Eventually joined the band "Grootna" (1970-71).

In 1974 returned to New York City and became immersed in the fertile NYC jazz scene, playing gigs and sessions with up & coming young players such as Joe Lovanno, Rich Perry, Bob Mintzer, Tom Harrell, John McNeil, Claudio Roditi, Steve Slagle, Jerry Bergonzi, Larry Schneider, Chuck Loeb, Mike Richmond, Jeff Williams, and many others.  During this period, studied jazz piano with Richie Beirach, Roland Hanna, and Mike Longo; also studied jazz composition and arranging with Hall Overton, Mike Abene, and Don Sebesky; attended classes at Juilliard extension division.  Played many solo, duo, trio, & combo gigs at local clubs in & around NYC.   Toured briefly with Buddy Rich in 1976.  Joined Lionel Hampton's band in 1977 and toured off & on with Hamp in 1977-78.  Joined Lee Konitz' Nonet and performed with him in clubs around NYC 1979-80.  In 1977 formed quintet with Tom Harrell, tpt; Jerry Bergonzi or Larry Schneider, sax; Mike Richmond, bass; Jeff Williams, drums, performing innovative, original jazz compositions in various NYC clubs & venues. 

During the 1980s & 1990s, worked in New York and toured nationally and internationally with various jazz, pop, and rock artists, including Blood, Sweat, and Tears (1984-86), Steve Slagle (1988-90), and Donna Summer (1993-96).  Continued to work as leader of variously formatted groups performing original jazz up to the present day.  Began to gain recognition as an accomplished composer and arranger with a wide stylistic versatility, creating original jazz big band compositions and arrangements for Lionel Hampton, Dean Pratt, the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra, and many others. During the 1990s and up to the present, continued to pursue interests in electonic music and synthesis, gaining recognition as an accomplished synthesizer programmer and MIDI composer.  Formed music production company, Union Street Music with partner Doug Califano in 1996.

Received BA from Empire State College (1983) and MM from Manhattan School of Music (1985).  A dedicated teacher and educator for over thirty years, Richard has been a member of the jazz faculty at Manhattan School of music since 1987, where his duties have included teaching Jazz Piano, Composition, Improvisation, Jazz Styles & Analysis, and Ensemble Coaching. Also created and developed Electronic Music/MIDI Studio facility at MSM and developed curriculum for classes in contemporary applications of electronic music, synthesizers, MIDI composition, digital audio recording, and film scoring.

Married Barbara Rice in 1993.  Moved to Nyack, NY in 1997, where he continues to reside with his wife and 2 cats, Ollie and Sylvie.

Free Fall (1978); Tributaries (1979)
As sideperson:
The Elephant's Memory: The Elephant's Memory (music from this album used in the film, "Midnight Cowboy") (1969); Country Joe McDonald: Hold On It's Coming (1970); Grootna: Grootna (1972); Lionel Hampton: Live in Switzerland (1978); Mike Santiago & Entity (1978); Jens Wendleboe: Lone Attic, Letter From New York (1985, 86); Steve Slagle: Smoke Signals (1991); Dean Pratt: The Pratt Brothers Big Band (1997); Various Artists: Nomad Christmas (1997); Randy Brecker: Into the Sun (1997); Simon Shaheen: Blue Flame (2001); Chris Connor: I Walk With Music (2002)

Broadcasts and films:
Composer for TV and films, scoring several hit children's TV series including "Gullah Gullah Island" (Nickelodeon 1996-98), and "Out of the Box" (Disney 1999-2001).  His extensive work in the field of film and television scoring has also included projects for NBC, CBS, ABC, MSG, Oxygen, and various independent films.

1984:   Tribute to Fletcher Henderson - commisioned by Dean Pratt
1984:   Meet the Composer Grant
1987:   Suite for Jazz Band & Orchestra #1 (NEA Grant)
1991:   Suite for Jazz Band & Orchestra #2 (NEA Grant)
2003:   Original Composition for Manhattan school of Music Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra, Sponsored by the Commission Project, May 15,2003

Contact information:
Richard Sussman
215 Elm St 
Upper Nyack, NY 10960

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