Brian Q. Torff is a renowned bassist, composer, author and educator. He is Professor of Music and Music Program Director at Fairfield University. He is a featured bass soloist who performs in jazz festivals throughout the United States, and is musical director of the Django Reinhardt New York Festival. His current project New Duke is an acclaimed eight-piece band that performs Torff’s updated arrangements of Duke Ellington’s music. In 1992 he served as co-chairperson of the Music Advisory Board for the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2008 Mr. Torff was honored as Artist of the Year by the Fairfield Arts Council.
Brian Torff’s professional career began in 1974 when bassist Milt Hinton offered him the opportunity to tour with Cleo Laine. During the late 70’s, Brian recorded and performed with pianists Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland, and toured with the gypsy jazz violin virtuoso Stephane Grappelli. He played in pianist Erroll Garner’s last group and worked in the big bands of Oliver Nelson and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.
In 1979 Brian Torff joined pianist George Shearing. In the course of their three and a half year collaboration, they toured extensively and were featured on The Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, and hosted their own PBS special from the Café Carlyle in New York City. They received worldwide acclaim and performed for President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Their third album won a Grammy for vocalist Mel Tormé.
Brian has composed works for recordings with George Shearing and Larry Coryell, as well as his own recordings Life in East Bumblepuck, Hitchhiker of Karoo, Manhattan Hoe-Down, and Workin’ On a Bassline. He has composed scores that have been performed by the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and has appeared as conductor, composer, and clinician for numerous high school and college jazz festivals. His original work is also are performed by his bands New Duke and Phantom Road.
Brian’s book In Love With Voices: A Jazz Memoir chronicles his early musical roots and provides portraits of musicians he has worked with including Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Erroll Garner, Benny Goodman, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, Stephane Grappelli, and George Shearing. The book is available on amazon.com.
As Professor of Music and the Music Program Director, he makes frequent appearances at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, leading the Fairfield University Jazz Ensemble along with guest jazz artists which included Randy Brecker, Bob Mintzer, Bernard Purdie, Milt Hinton, Dave Samuels and Paul Wertico.
New Duke features Torff’s arrangements of Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club period through the 1960s, infused with funk, hip-hop, reggae, world beat and other contemporary rhythms. The band highlights the musical brilliance of one of jazz’s most influential figures in an original light. These arrangements for eight-piece jazz band result in a fresh musical direction. The band performs in concert and at festivals, and will release its first recording in the fall of 2014.
New Duke features Darryl Tookes, vocals; Brian Torff, bass, composer and arranger, harmonica, and vocals; Jamie Finegan, trumpet; Rick Sadlon, saxophone and flute; Steve Moran, tenor and baritone sax; John Fumasoli, trombone; Dave Childs, keyboards; and Don Mulvaney, drums.
Phantom Road combines fresh, original songwriting and contemporary lyrics with the classic horn band sound of the early 70’s. Check them out @ www.phantomroadband.com