Russell Keith Ferrante is a jazz pianist from San Jose, California who is a founding member of the group Yellowjackets. During his early career, Ferrante performed with American blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon and guitarist Robben Ford. He also toured with Joni Mitchell. The group Yellowjackets also includes New York saxophonist Bob Mintzer. The Yellowjackets write and perform their own music at jazz venues in America, Europe and Asia. They have been nominated for Grammy awards and have won twice in their category. Ferrante is married with one daughter.
Ferrante’s first exposure to music came from his church, where his father was the choir director. He began piano lessons at 9. Beside his early interest in the piano, Ferrante also tried other instruments, including drums, and has played percussion on a some recording sessions. His experience with drums has benefited his piano and keyboard playing and composing.
Ferrante took piano lessons from Anne Penner in San Jose, CA from age 9-16. He became interested in jazz and pop in his teens and studied on his own. In high school he began performing with various R&B and jazz groups in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1973 he met guitarist, Robben Ford and toured the U.S. and Europe as part of Jimmy Witherspoon's band. Ferrante says of this time:
“Much to my parent’s displeasure, my gig with Jimmy Witherspoon necessitated my dropping out of college. I like to say though that navigating the musical and non-musical hazards of the road with “Spoon” was an education I could never have gotten in college”.
In 1977 Ferrante moved to Los Angeles in order to continue working with Robben Ford. He was soon recording and touring with Ford, Joe Farrell, Tom Scott, and Joni Mitchell among others. During this period Ferrante, Ford and Jimmy Haslip co-founded the jazz group the Yellowjackets. Ferrante also began working as a freelance writer, arranger and producer for numerous recordings including those by Bobby McFerrin and Al Jarreau.