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Kyiv has never been witness to such a flow of live jazz concerts in which world famous names are taking part this fall. In fact, live jazz from around the world is invading Kyiv and other big cities across Ukraine.

Such large-scale jazz festivals as Jazz Koktebel, the Jazz Carnival in Odesa and the Mamakabo international festival in Koktebel are being held in September. In addition, an absolutely new event called Jazz Academy is being held in Kyiv. Up until recently, jazz was not very noticeable on the Ukrainian music horizon, though it always existed. As of late, jazz is becoming more and more popular on the local music scene. On the one hand, this is the merit of a few enthusiasts. On the other hand, Ukrainian music lovers of different ages have started to more and more understand and appreciate this genre of music.

Kyiv music buffs have had the opportunity to enjoy live on stage such great names in jazz as the legendary guitarist John McLaughlin from Mahavishnu Orchestra, keyboard player Joe Zawinul (Weather Report, Zawinul Syndicate), sax player John Surman, trumpeter Randy Brecker, drummer Billy Cobham and others.

The Polish Institute has also treated Kyivans with great jazz gigs over many years, giving them the free opportunity to enjoy the brilliant talent of Polish jazz players, including recognized classics of the genre and talented young musicians. Lately, in Kyiv the International Jazz Season Ticket was introduced. This gave locals the opportunity to see famous American jazz musicians on the academic stages of the National Philharmonic.

The idea of establishing the Jazz Academy belongs to Pyotr Poltarev and Arkadiy Ovrutskiy, art directors of the creative concert agency Art-Liga. By the way, bass guitarist Ovrutskiy, who for years has represented Russian jazz on the world stage, hails from Kyiv. With its great experience in organizing live concerts of famous jazz stars in Kyiv, for example, International Jazz Season Ticket, Art-Liga decided to give Ukrainian jazz performers the chance to communicate and gain experience from world recognized masters of jazz in Kyiv.

The academy will exist in the form of master classes. Among lecturers will be the outstanding American musicians and teachers Frank Lacy, Steve Slagel and Kim Plainfield, the recognized Ukrainian jazz journalist and producer Oleksiy Kohan and Arkadiy Ovrutskiy. The classes will be held from morning till night and end up with general jam sessions. Besides instrumental and vocal classes, there will also be lectures on the history of jazz, theory, rhythmic fundamentals and the mechanics of accompaniment of all basic jazz music styles. For vocalists, special classes of stage art, improvisation, and so on will be held.

Classes will also be held in ensembles and big band formats. By the way, the majority of teachers at the Academy are first of all performers that give live concerts on a regular basis. Kim Plainfield and Steve Slagel have been giving lectures at prestigious educational institutions for many years. They include the Music College at Berkeley University and The Collective. Frank Lacy has been giving lectures at Rutgers University for many years now.

In October, Kyivans will see performances of jazz classics, including such legends as pianist Chick Corea with his Chick Corea Elektric Band and vibraphonist Gary Burton will perform in Palats Ukraina. Corea is surely one of the most expected jazz musicians for the Ukrainian audience. The live performance of this unsurpassed master with his colleague Gary Burton, with whom the pianist has been working for almost 35 years, is definitely a double whammy for Kyiv jazz aficionados.

Kyiv also awaits the arrival of the outstanding modern drummer Omar Hakim. In November, the Donetsk jazz festival DoDzh will present Kyivans with a precious gift Ė live concerts of three world famous jazz bands: Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 and the instrumentalists Mezzoforte. Besides that, concerts of the International Jazz Season Ticket cycle will continue.

Stay jazzified!

By Vladyslav Zhurba


Arkadiy Ovrutskiy: music of freedom in Ukraine
 

For two years now, the Kyiv audience has had a possibility to communicate with masters of world jazz thanks to the project International Jazz Subscription (IJS). The new season of the project begins on February 18. Well-known musician Arkadiy Ovrutskiy is one of the creators of the project. His creativity has gained a stronghold among fans of jazz music in three countries Ė Ukraine, Russia and the US. Ovrutskiy spoke with KW as the producer of the International Jazz Subscription project.

KW: Do you believe that jazz music is meant for a close circle of people? How did you come up with the idea of creating the International Jazz Subscription project in Ukraine and what is the essence of it?

AO: We created International Jazz Subscription specifically to popularize jazz music. The idea is to offer the Ukrainian audience the chance to attend live jam sessions performed by ďnative jazz musiciansĒ, namely famous American musicians, to develop the perception of a jazz culture in the local audience. Admission fees for the concerts are reasonably affordable.

KW: Is there such a notion as European jazz?

AO: There is no such thing as purely European jazz. This notion was invented by music critics. I do not know any European that can be considered a pioneer in jazz. There are European national improvisation schools with elements of ethno music. From the point of view of world music culture, these schools are of great interest to many. But calling this pure jazz is equivalent to labeling Christmas carols as the rumba. Along with this there exists west-cast music, but this is simply for relaxation.

KW: There are different opinions as to where the notion of jazz music begins and where it ends? Do you have your own definition of jazz?

AO: Jazz is deep and serious music that inherently is a protest against slavery and a call for freedom. It is based on the fusion of the black and white cultures. Without the Afro-American constituent it is not jazz, rather, as I already mentioned, a kind of improvised national music. There are performers from different countries that play jazz music, but all of them play by American standards.

KW: What is the most meaningful concert given by IJS? What was the most interesting aspect for you as a musician and producer in this project?

AO: The last concert of the New Harlem Jazz Quintet in 2006 with vocalist Gregory Porter. Our boys Ė students of the R. Glier Kyiv State Higher Music College Ė played together with experienced jazz musicians. In March, we will present the work of female vocalists, students of the Kyiv Pop-music and Circus College. Having worked with them Gregory Porter and Frank Lacy noted their high level of performance.
There is hope now that a national jazz school is being formed in Ukraine. A good example of this is the live performances of young musicians.

KW: What are the future plans of International Jazz Subscription in 2007?

AO: First of all, to stick to our concert schedule, meaning giving one live performance per month. Secondly, to continue acquaint the audience with new performers, both novices and famous veterans that have not yet performed within the framework of the IJS project. We are planning to conduct seven-day intensive learning courses twice a year (in March and September). Naturally, we are planning to have young musicians perform live, as they are the future of jazz in Ukraine.

Background

Arkadiy Ovrutskiy is considered to be one of the best jazz bass guitarists in Russia. He began his music career at the age of 22 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Here he graduated from the R. Glier Kyiv State Higher College of Music and moved to Moscow, where he continued his education at the Gnesin Academy of Music. In 1992 he became the first Russian bass guitarist with a higher music education. Ovrutskiy released his first solo album titled New Age, which included his own compositions he recorded with Moscow jazz musicians in 2002. Ovrutskiy has been actively touring over the past two years and is the creator of the International Jazz Season Ticket Festival.


By Iryna Somova
 


Mark Soskin: I never thought jazz would be so popular in Ukraine
 

 

KW: You came to music at the end of the 1960ís in the era when rock-n-roll was blooming, but in the end you chose jazz. Why?


M.S.: I love to improvise. That is one of the biggest factors of playing jazz. I have a lot of freedom and thatís why I like jazz.

KW: In your opinion, has not jazz music been exhausted with time?

M.S.: Recently there is a lot of young new talented musicians coming along in New York. They bring new interesting ideas to jazz and play great music. I just did a new CD with several young jazz players. And these younger guys bring this other kind of sound. Iím sure that jazz is transforming and will continue to develop. Weíll see in what way.

KW: Why do people listen to jazz? Where is it more popular?

M.S.: I think people who come to jazz concerts are usually pretty serious about the music. They listen to jazz because it gets to the heart and soul. When I play what I try to do is to reach people in some way. I hope they understand what I do. It is pleasant that there are a lot of young people in my audience, no matter if tickets to jazz concerts are pretty expensive in New York. Well, typical jazz clubs like Village Vanguard or Birdland charge a minimum US $40 per night, not including drinks. Besides, a lot of young people want to learn to play jazz.
Jazz is definitely more popular in Europe, Japan. I never thought it would be so popular in Ukraine. It is great to see it. Anywhere you go, jazz has to be publicized and promoted well in order to become popular through active promotion of concerts and recordings. New blood is coming to jazz.

KW: What are your impressions of the Ukrainian jazz scene?

M.S.: So far I have very good experiences in Ukraine: nice audience and halls and a cordial atmosphere. My friend Arkadiy Ovrutskiy does great as a producer. I was impressed with the skills of Ukrainian musicians and their knowledge of jazz traditions.

KW: For many years you worked with the living jazz legend Sonny Rollins. Can you remember any interesting moments that characterize him as a musician and personality?

M.S.: Oh, there were a lot of such moments. I remember that we played a concert together in New York in 1987. This concert was at the same time filmed.

There were about 4,000 people in the hall, the decorations resembled rocks, the musicians were on different levels and there was a gap between decorations and the audience. We started to play and suddenly Sonny decided to jump. He did not reach the other side of the rock and fell. First, there was some noise and then silence. Everybody started laughing, thinking that it was a joke. And two minutes later we heard music coming from the hole Sonny had fallen into (his microphone had a long cord that let him move on the stage freely). It turned out that Sonny had broken his leg and he did the whole concert playing on his back.

KW: What music did you listen to yesterday?

M.S.: As I said before Iíve recently recorded a new album. It takes me a month of intense work and intense listening. Once Iím done I need to take a short break from music. I listen to a lot of different music: to classical music, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. My love for jazz started with Coltrane. By the way, his album A Love Supreme is what really turned me on to jazz.


By Svyatoslav Yarynych

 


Non-stop jazz a la Kyiv
 

The performance of the New Harlem Jazz Quintet on December 17 at the Grand Hall of the Tchaikovsky Music Academy in Kyiv marked the end of this yearís season of the International Jazz Subscription event.


The Art Liga agency, music experts, producers Petro Poltarev and Olena Suprun and musician Arkadiy Ovrutskiy have conducted this event for the second year now.

Kyiv has long become a jazz city as one can enjoy live jazz in nightclubs and the leading concert halls of the nationís capital. However, for the second straight year the International Jazz Subscription event has offered Kyiv jazz aficionados performances by jazz masters from different countries of the world practically every month.

The founder of the project Petro Poltarev has been teaching the fundamentals of jazz music for many years. Today, he is the director of the Jazz and Pop Art School.

This year, 13 concerts were held within the framework of the International Jazz season Over its first two seasons, Kyiv fans saw concerts of famous jazz performers, such as Zbigniew Namyslowski, Piotr Baron, Mark Soskin, Melvin Weins, Kim Plainfield, Piotr Wojtaszyk, Greg Bandy and many others.

A former student of Poltarev and now experienced bas guitar player Arkadiy Ovrutskiy became Poltarevís partner in organizing the concerts. After studying in Kyiv, Ovrutskiy perfected his skills for 15 years in Russia, the U.S., Poland and other countries.

This autumn, Art Liga came up with another initiative creating the International Jazz Academy. The idea is to offer talented young musicians the chance to study jazz music and make the best of it through attending workshops held by guests of Jazz Subscription.

The audience was able to see the fruits of this cooperation in the first part of the concert on December 17. A big band consisting of the students of several music schools of Kyiv presented the final product of several days of work with the outstanding American trombonist Frank Lacy, who used to work with the great Dizzy Gillespie. Lacy was just as striking as his students. Dressed in a Ukrainian vyshyvanka (embroidered shirt), he jumps non-stop around the stage prompting his students with gestures or lips.

Even for an inexperienced person, it was clear that the young saxophonists, trombonists and trumpeters together formed a mature and well-organized band. Several months before classes, Lacy sent notes to students and when he came to Kyiv he selected the best of the lot. The students say that they did not think they would manage mastering such a great deal of music and significantly improve their level within a matter of a few lessons. Poltarev believes that the greatest thing for a beginner in jazz is to learn to think this music.

This is the material that such teachers as Lacy teach. The other participant of the concert, American vocalist Gregory Porter, began his teaching in Kyiv on December 18.

The second part of the concert featured a performance of Porter with the new Harlem Jazz Quintet, Frank Lacy, the Kyiv pianist Volodymyr Nesterenko and bass guitarist Ovrutskiy. The wonderful and soft tenor voice of Porter in combination with a virtuoso performance of his partners was a real treat to the grateful audience. The musicians received several encores. For the grand finale the American guests prepared a big surprise: the even-tempered Porter and emotional Lacy, who continuously mimicked his colleague in the course of the concert, sang together. The unexpected duet was the best conclusion to the International Jazz Subscription this year.

Gregory Porter calls himself ďa young jazz singerĒ. Despite this, he has certainly had a measure of success in his career as a musician. His musical Nat King Cole and Me, in which he also plays the leading actor, had a successful run. The musical is a story about how the music of the world renowned musician was a substitution for a father he never had.
It Ainít Nothiní But the Blues, in which Porter was a performer, received four Tony Awards nominations in 1999 (the Oscar equivalent in theater), including for Best Musical.

KW: How did you start singing?

GP: My mother and father were ministers. My mother would take me to church all the time to sing, where she would speak. Thatís how I began singing. Iíve been singing all my life, but I did not start professionally until after graduating from college in California. Now I live in Brooklyn, N.Y. Iíve worked with Hubert Laws (internationally renowned flutist - KW), Ronnie Laws (tenor and jazz musician - KW), Wynton Marsalis (New Orleans-born jazz and classical artist and composer Ė KW). I am a young singer in jazz and I just want to keep going.

KW: What is the most important thing in music for you?

GP: I will start with the least important. Thatís the lines and the dots Ė i.e. the notes. The theory is important, but it is all about emotion. You climb into a song and itís like putting on a coat of the song and wearing it throughout the entire song. A love song means something more to me. Iíve loved somebody before and that same person broke my heart and then stomped on it. So, I know when I sing Sky Lark, I am desperate to find another love.

KW: What musicians were idols for you?

GP: Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan. There are also the singers that you have never heard of, because nobody has. They are the people that I grew up with, who I learned songs from on the street. I grew up and the music grew up with me; it has become a part of me.

KW: You wrote the musical Nat King Cole and Me. Where was it performed?

GP: It was performed at the Denver Center in Colorado. We had a really successful run. We did it in 2004-2005 and I am still doing it. It is the story of the music of Nat King Cole and how the music came to me when I was a child. In the absence of my father, I turned to music and Nat King Cole became a father figure for me.

KW: How did you get into the It Ainít Nothin But the Blues musical that was shown on Broadway?

GP: It is a funny thing. The show is actually the history in progression of black music from Africa, how it was influenced and influenced other music styles, such as country, rock-n-roll, R&B, gospel and blues. It showed the roots of this music. You know, I can hear it all over the world. I hear it in Ukrainian pop music. I think I was perfect for the show because the singers that I grew up with in the churches were 90 years old. They grew up in the 1920s and 1930s; so I heard that music.

KW: How did you come up with the idea of working in Kyiv?

GP: Arkadiy Ovrutskiy heard me in New York and invited me here. Every time I come here is really great. You should see me in N.Y. I always talk about Kyiv. I wear a T-shirt with Kyiv written on it. This is really a beautiful city and the people have been really kind to me. They are really the best audiences that Iíve had. This is my third time in Kyiv and I will be coming back for more.

KW: You work with Ukrainian students. Is there a difference between Ukrainian musicians and American?

GP: We have worked with some of the students. And in the time I am here, we will have a workshop with students learning how to shape the music, ďput on that coat of the songĒ and take it off and put on another one.

There is a difference between Ukrainian musicians and American ones, because Ukrainians did not have the teachers we have. But they do have Ukrainian folk music. To me, it is really soulful. I think Ukrainians have their own blues as well. They can infuse that into the music and borrow from African-American tradition. It is good. As I learn I ďstealĒ from Ukrainian music. It is really an exchange.

KW: What plans do you have for the coming year?

GP: In February, I am going to South Africa to perform and I will come back here, I think, in March. Then I have plans of re-doing another CD. And then, learn more music.

By Olena Lytvynenko, Dmytro Ivanov

 



International Jazz Season is a project organized by Ukrainian music critics Petro Poltaryov and Olena Suprun. Together they created the art concert agency Art-Liga, which established normal ties between Kyiv and world jazz stars. For around half a year now famous jazz musicians from around the world have been giving live concerts in the capital of Ukraine within the framework of this project. They sometimes even do gigs with lauded Ukrainian musicians.

Traditionally, the tours are held in the best concert halls in the city Ė the Column Hall of the National Philharmonic or the Grand Hall of the National Academy of Music. The visiting musicians also manage to give additional live concerts in several prestigious clubs in Kyiv and on local radio programs. The permanent emcee of these concerts is jazz producer and journalist Oleksiy Kohan. He was one of the first to organize the visits of world famous jazz musicians to Ukraine and local musicians giving performances abroad to introduce them to the world community.


The Polish-born saxophone players Piotr Baron and Zbigniew Namyslowski and the American pianist Mark Soskin, who worked with the legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins, drummer Kim Plainfield, trumpet player Melvin Vines, vocalist T-Bone and saxophonist Gerald Heiss have all performed in Kyiv, some on several occasions. Ukrainian bass guitarist Arkadiy Ovrutskiy, who is a former Kyiv resident and now lives and plays in the U.S., performed with these musicians a number of times. Needless to say, the concerts in the International Jazz Season always gather a full house.


Art-Liga has also done a great deal of work promoting Ukrainian jazz, having organized tours for our musicians abroad. Commemorative evenings dedicated to one of the best Kyiv jazz composers and teachers Yevhen Derhunov have become a long-standing tradition. On March 19 Kyiv expects the arrival of jazz singer Gregory Potter from the U.S.



Background


In the 1950-60s, Soviet ideologists proclaimed jazz a hostile form of music. The attitude of the Soviet regime towards jazz was put into a slogan: ďYou play jazz today and youíll sell out your homeland tomorrowĒ. But anybody with common sense has always considered jazz music to be an integral part of world culture, while the improvisation inherent to jazz as a symbol of freedom that the USSR lacked. Back in Soviet times there were many jazz admirers and musicians in the Ukrainian cities of Odesa, Lviv, Kyiv and Donetsk. Despite this, world famous jazz musicians never toured in Ukraine. Today the situation has changed for the better since the years of the countryís independence.


By Dmytro Ivanov

 


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