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12-year-old violin prodigy to perform

When Jonathan Russell is not on stage jamming with traditional jazz musicians, he likes to spend time at home playing video games or creating computer animation.
His favorite concert experience was three years ago when he played at the renowned New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2004, but he cannot remember the specifics of it because he was only nine years old.
Six festivals later, at the age of 12, Russell has gotten used to being up on stage with famous musicians nearly five times his age.
“At first it was awkward, but now I don’t get nervous,” he said. “I love getting on stage and having everyone applaud me.”
Russell will be performing December 7 at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City with a group of musicians that he has hand picked for the occasion. “He just picked the guys in New York who he loves to play with,” said Russell’s mother, Eve Weiss.
Russell will be playing with all Dixieland jazz artists like himself including Ed Polcer, his long-standing mentor, Benny Goodman’s Sextet alumnus Mark Shane, Vince Giordano of the Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks and Kevin Dorn.
“He has had a lot of supportive people watching him throughout his career because, here is a kid who truly loves what he’s doing; they don’t want the music to die, so they will do anything to help him succeed,” Weiss said.
Russell is a Suzuki-trained musician. This type of jazz, developed in New Orleans in the early 1900s, was rapidly replaced by swing and be-bop jazz by the 1930s.
Russell’s mom said that he is just now getting into swing and early be-bop musicians like Charlie Parker.
“I always wanted to be a rock guitarist, so when I had a kid I thought that he would play that kind of stuff,” Weiss said.
Instead, Russell is playing the music of his grandparents’ generation, and rocking at it.
In 2005, he was the American String Teachers Association’s Alternative Styles winner for best improvisation. One year later, he had the honor of being the youngest jazz musician ever invited to play in the master class at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
While only 12, Russell already has his own CD out called “The Sheik of Araby,” and regularly performs with the Grove Street Stompers and Ed Polcer in New York.

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