From Chicago’s Finest: Bass Player Tony Russell – from the Westside to the World by John Smith:
The last 10 years have been a whirlwind for Tony [Russell]. One look at his resume will provide a staggering account of the major artists he’s worked with including R. Kelly, Dave Hollister, Smokie Norful, P. Diddy, and for the last several years, hip-hop icon Jay-Z...Tony’s working relationship with producer/drummer Nisan Stewart helped him land his gigs with Diddy and his present employer, Jay-Z. “I was working with Nisan doing the Jamie Foxx gig, and we were doing Puff at the same time. Puff hand picks his musicians himself. When Puff was working on the American Gangster album, I got the call’ and has been working with Jay-Z ever since.”
When asked about what life is like as a touring musician and being on the road, Tony explained that it’s not all just fun and games. ‘“Some people don’t understand that even though it’s the entertainment business, we’re not there to be entertained. We’re there working to entertain you the audience. It’s a real job. Rehearsal can be eight to ten hours a day for 3 or 4 weeks before we go on the road. We might have lobby call (when everyone has to be in the lobby ready for the bus) at 5am, go to the venue, soundcheck, and then we might have to be there all day. Don’t get me wrong, there’s glamorous things too like parties and stuff like that. But that’s not happening every night, or even if it is, it doesn’t mean we have time to go. A lot of times we have to take off so we can get to the next city.”
According to Tony, working with major artists keeps musicians at the top of their game. “An artist might come in the day before the show after we’ve been rehearsing for weeks, and want to change something. You have to be quick and able to remember the whole show, plus whatever new changes we have to make at the last minute. There’s a lot that goes into playing and you have to be professional at all times.”
In addition to working as a touring bass player, Tony is also an accomplished producer and bandleader.