E/O founder/leader/saxophonist/composer Russ Gershon was born in New York on August 11, 1959 and grew up in Westport Connecticut. After studying violin and piano as a wee small lad, under the influence of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Coltrane he gravitated to saxophone at age 17. During summers, he worked for his grandfather Joe Leon in New York's Garment District, in close proximity to the record stores and concert venues of Manhattan.
Deeply influenced by the bounty of New York jazz scene of the 1970s (from Loft Jazz to the Village Vanguard to the swinging West End to Carnegie Hall), he moved to Cambridge Massachusetts to attend Harvard College in 1977. On his way to a degree in philosophy (thesis on Le Dejeuner sur la Herbe, a painting by Manet), Gershon worked as DJ, jazz director and station manager of Harvard's radio station WHRB, where he produced or broadcast regularly scheduled jazz shows along with end-of-semester radio Orgies such as 78 hours of AACM music, 127 hours of Bebop, 52 hours of Charles Mingus, 52 hours of Ornette Coleman, and many more.
Early rock bands...
Swept up in the punk revolution of the late 70s and the punk/funk fusion beginning at that time, Gershon co-founded an eclectic rock band, the Decoders, which started on campus but soon began playing clubs around Boston, CGBGs and the Mudd Club in New York, and went on an extremely low-budget tour of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming in the summer of 1981 which gave the saxophonist a first taste of the touring which he would later continue with the Either/Orchestra. Guitarist Eric Pfeiffer later became the principal art director of Accurate Records, a label Gershon would found in 1987.