Nearly fifty years ago, when I played trombone in a terrific music program at London Central Secondary School, we brass blowers were looking for role models. There were none better than the fabulous “horn” bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Tower of Power and of course, the Canadian group Lighthouse. There WAS a future for us horn players! How we looked up to those musicians.
The original trombone player in Lighthouse was Russ Little. He’d been taught in high school in Toronto by another great trombonist, George McRae, now of Picton, Ontario. Russ is one of the greatest jazz trombone players in the world. He literally re-invented himself after his days in rock, and forged a career in jazz composing, arranging and performance that crossed paths with the biggest acts in the business, including Count Basie and Woody Herman, most of the major North American TV networks, NFL Football, and Second City TV, where he worked closely with John Candy, Eugene Levy and Martin Short.
One of my life’s distinct pleasures is that I have come to know Russ Little, and have even performed with him on occasion, because of my connection to the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival. I have discovered that he is a gentleman, a scholar (formidably knowledgeable about history, politics, and the arts), and someone with whom periodic communication and re-connecting is something to look forward to!
Another fateful twist in my life is that I have come to lead a big swing band. And so, I was in a position to do what I’m still smiling about; we booked Russ as a featured guest soloist with the Commodores’ Orchestra. Fifty years ago, I’d’ve wondered what you were smoking if you told me that was going to happen. (Russ, if you’re reading this, I only hope your dressing room was big enough, and that we paid you enough!)
When I think of the kid horn player who idolized Lighthouse, who now considers Russ Little a friend, I am reminded that life’s unpredictable twists and turns do often lead to sweet satisfactions. –