Robert Bell was the boy that never kept still. Any object at any moment could suddenly be used for musical expression. This got the attention of Robert’s parents (in more ways than one) and he was encouraged to pursue piano. At the age of thirteen, while waiting for his weekly piano lesson, he heard someone playing acoustic guitar; the piano was sold shortly thereafter. Born in Milwaukee WI, Robert grew up close to The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music where he first studied guitar. The moment of great influence and inspiration came after Robert first listened to guitarist Django Reinhardt, and in 1998 he began to pursue his truest calling: Jazz. Robert studied privately with Minneapolis guitarists Scott Fraser and Paul Renz. Robert’s pursuit of Jazz also presented other musical opportunities and he became the guitarist for Troupe America’s A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline. The Theatre bug bit Robert hard and he followed as Music Director and guitarist for Minnesota Festival Theatre’s Always Patsy Cline. Robert’s strength as a band leader emerged and the swing septet BellCats was formed. Bellcats was a featured artist on Germany’s Frankie Boy records, their self titled album was released and the group was featured on numerous compilations. BellCats performed for hundreds of corporate events, club dates, weddings and festivals. In 2002 Robert began to focus his talents on Gypsy Jazz or Hot Club music. He created “A Tribute to Django Reinhardt “ featuring Minnesota’s top players in the genre and including members from every Hot Club in Minnesota. Based on the response from audiences, Robert was offered a weekly show at The Times Bar and Café in May of 2004. It was this weekly performance opportunity that was the inspiration for Robert’s first solo release, Gypsy Tendercies. The release from concept to completion was done in six weeks. Studio time was completed in 12 hours as Robert tracked both rhythm and lead parts that Vintage Guitar described as “fiery, virtuosic solos.” Robert formed the Twin Cities Hot Club in 2005. The group has released a self titled CD and the DVD Live at the Times. Robert is also a member of the traditional jazz band the Southside Aces and the world music ensemble Cafe Accordion Orchestra. Robert leads the Robert Bell Hot Swing Combo, and has also worked as bandleader for Lili’s Burlesque and MPR Stage Sessions. Performance experience includes the Twin Cities Hot Summer Jazz Festival, the Twin Cities Winter Jazz Festival, the Doc Evans Jazz Festival, Midwest Gypsy Swing Fest, Uptown Row Django Festand Minnesota sur Seine where he performed a concert with the great gypsy guitarist Dorado Schmitt. Robert has also been a guest soloist with the Fort Smith Symphony, North Carolina Symphony and the Fort Worth Symphony under the direction of Sarah Hicks. Opening credits include the Squirrel Nut Zippers and John Jorgensen. Performances with author readings include Michael Dregni, Heather McElhatton, and Barbara Kingsolver. Robert has also been selected to perform for many international and regional swing dancing festivals. Performance experience includes Midwest Lindyfest (MN), Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown (MN), Twin Cities Lindy Exchange (MN), Twin Cities Balboa Festival (MN), Washington D.C. Lindy Exchange (DC), Rocky Mountain Balboa Blowout (CO), Lindy On The Rocks (CO), Cowtown Jamborama (NE), Midwest Balboa Fest (NE), Hawkeye Swing Festival (IA), KissME (MI), Heartland Swing Festival (IA), Strutter’s Ball (IL), Rocktober (OH), University of WI Madison, St. Olaf, Carleton College, Gustavus Aldophus, Lawrence University and Macalester College. As a soloist or part of a group Robert regularly provides music for many corporate clients including; Target Corporation, Wells Fargo, Carlson Companies, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Schuler Shook, KBEM Jazz 88.5fm, BI Corporation, AEI Funds, Cunningham Group, Sen. Norm Coleman, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, City of Minneapolis, Alliance Française of Minneapolis/St Paul,and St. Paul Saints to name a few. Robert also provides music for many weddings and private events. Robert Bell’s passion shines through his recorded music and his diversity in the Jazz genre creates energizing live performances.
- Gypsy Twang
- Eileen Gorman