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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
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.
By Vladyslav Zhurba
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
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
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
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.
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
By Iryna Somova
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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