Dr. Russ Zokaites, Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Morehead State University, is releasing his debut album “Bootleg” on Friday, November 5th. The album, released by Centaur Records and distributed via NAXOS, will be available on all streaming services.
Zokaites joined the MSU faculty in the fall of 2018. A native of Christiansburg, Virginia, he began playing the trombone in the school orchestra. Since then, music has been a vehicle for seeing the world. He has given recitals at the 2019 and 2018 International Trombone Festivals, the 2016 International Horn Symposium, the University of Cincinnati, the Manhattan School of Music, the Netherlands and many other venues. Zokaites, performed as a featured soloist with the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” at the American Trombone Workshop in 2021 and 2019.
The university awarded Zokaites a Creative Production Grant to record the music for “Bootleg”. The project showcases Appalachian inspired music with a base in folk music. These compositions, mostly composed for trombone, feature a variety of styles and techniques, but give a distinctly American classic sound. After Zokaites returned home from living in the Netherlands, he wanted to create his musical voice that also reflects the heritage of his home region.
“American composers have used folk melodies to write American music and to find a style distinct from that of our people” Zokaites said. “I started working with a team of composers to create this voice specifically for the bass trombone. The creation process took a long time and often felt more like a journey than a straight line. These four pieces were really about what we were trying to create, and I’m very proud of the end product.
“Bootleg” features pieces by four different composers who wrote music specifically for this album: “Latchn Duets” by Brad Edwards, who teaches trombone at Arizona State University and is principal trombonist for the South Carolina Philharmonic; “Serenity” by Martin Hebel, who is a five-time US award winner and the 2020 Presser Foundation Graduate Music Award winner; “Bass Trombone Concerto” by Kenneth Fuchs, a Grammy-winning composer who has recorded five albums with the London Symphony; and “A Strange Wayfarer for Bass Trombone and Looping Station” by William Timmons, United States Air Force Ceremonial Band trombonist in Washington, DC
The featured artists of “Bootleg” include Timothy Anderson (tenor trombone), William Murphy (piano), piano instructor at MSU, Gina Pezzoli (cello), assistant music instructor at MSU, and the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” under the direction of Colonel Andrew Esch.
Between developing ideas, composing, and raising funds for the project, Zokaites said it took five years to complete. The works were recorded at the University of Cincinnati on September 12, 2020, with the exception of the “Concerto for Bass Trombone,” recorded March 10-13, 2020, in Washington, DC. venues along the way, including at MSU’s Baird Music Hall in February 2020.
Zokaites said the collaborations have been successful and have helped everyone involved bring their A-game as musicians and songwriters. Now he hopes that the musical palette he presents with “Bootleg” truly reflects the diversity of the place that inspired him.
“This is a large geographic location that has been colonized and exploited by a wide variety of people. I wanted to give this heritage a place on my stage as a contemporary classical musician ”, he said. “I really hope you can listen on your porch while looking at the Appalachian Hills.”
Dr Russ Zokaites can be contacted at [email protected]
For more information on music programs at MSU, visit http://www.moreheadstate.edu/music or email [email protected] or call 606-783-2473.