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Russian Ornament

Vintskevich Nick • 12/09/2013

This disc has been long awaited in all branches of the music realm by professionals, critics and those amateurs who expect their idols to come up not with the Greatest Hits that are a replay of the old stuff but something brand new. However, it was Leonid Vintskevich, who waited longer than others. Not all lived to see it appear. Culture expert Leonid Pereverzev and music journalist Arkady Petrov have already passed away, whereas the theoretician and radio presenter Yefim Barban has gone abroad. All in all, we waited a good thirty years. In the late 1970s, the aforementioned Yefim Barban invited a young pianist’s trio to a workshop conference on improvisation. Actually, this was the way out to call a jazz festival that had been suspended by Estonian officials following an excessively promoted 14th festival in 1967. Yefim recommended him as one of the musicians of his generation who can be defined as a full-fledged genuine Russian talent. Indeed, from the first notes it became clear that a self-sufficient and state-of the-art talent had joined our jazz. This is how modern composers of the “new folklore wave” of the 1960s, such as Sergey Slonimsky or Rodion Shchedrin, genuine connoisseurs of jazz, could have improvised on the piano. Or it could have been the work of jazz vanguard figures like Paul Bley or the young Chick Corea. The virtuoso performance and inventiveness of the pianist and his unconventional, “explosive” thinking tinged with emotionality were duly appreciated by audience and critics alike. Following some US tours, DOWN BEAT magazine called his music “a fine and open Russian avant-garde where Erroll Garner is at one with Cecil Taylor…” Three, if not four, epochs have elapsed since then, both in life and art. Authentic music folklore, ethnics, including the form of the “global jazz,” were conquering the world. Vintskevich didn’t remain idle, either. In cooperation with the Estonian saxophonist Lembit Saarsaly, he sought the elements of jazz in the common pre-history of the Slavonic and Finn-Ugric people. Also, he collaborated with him on the Nordic project Targa Novoje Mond Trio. At the very beginning of the 21st century, the Vintskevich family project Five Songs was launched. It was managed by Leonid and his son Nick, the saxophonist. I remember demonstrating a still not released recording of The Five Songs to the German jazz community, who loved it, and labeled it as one of the most interesting trends in our jazz. In 1997, Vintskevich Sr. founded the Jazz Province “travelling” festival (inspired by Russian artists Peredvizhniki, who created the Association of Travelling Art Exhibits). Its mission was to introduce into the authentic Russian musical pattern those world-class musicians with whom the pianist and Jazz Province producer toured together. In 1999, for the first time in the history of Russian jazz and as a part of the Jazz Province, the Russky Ornament (Russian patterns) programme was put on at the Tchaikovsky concert hall in Moscow. It featured the Rostan folklore choir from the town of Sudzha, Kursk oblast. Fourteen years later, the iconic performance of a Russian-American quartet accompanied by the same choir was once again held during the Jazz Province. The melding of Svetlana Yegorova, a choir vocalist, with the saxophones of Nick Vintskevich convincingly demonstrates the organic blend of scat and pastoral tunes. Electric fusion jazz (bright representatives: Brian Bromberg, Frank Gambale) musician Joel Taylor embraced the Russian spirit, same as before he was inspired by Brazilian music (and you could feel it during numerous master classes held in Russia). This adopted Russian spirit was brought into a two-some with Nick Vintskevich in the folklore song “Po dubrave” (Through the oak coppice), but also in his jazz-like response to Paul Desmond’s “Take five – give me five.” Those who can do so should compare the two recorded versions of “Polyn-trava” (The Wormwood Grass), the first number on the Five Songs. Here the new record presents the dramatic tension originally introduced by Vintskevich as a composer. This sounds clear despite the occasional swift chromatic harmonies similar to the post-bop of Sonny Rollins in which the Reed-Taylor rhythmic sections are at their strongest. Strange as it may seem, the closest thing to the first version of “Polyn-trava” is the composition “Groto’s Pillow,” dedicated to the drummer Taylor. Actually, Groto is his childhood nickname, and he always takes along his own pillow wherever he goes. Despite an almost jocular – for jazz pieces – title, “Groto’s Pillow” is perhaps the most innovative item on the disc. One can hear elements of the 7th symphony by Prokofiev which was highly appreciated by jazzmen and by Groto himself. The symphony’s influence on maestro Vintskevich is plainly obvious in the first version of the “Polyn-trava.” If we probe deeper, we shall see that in their last symphonies Prokofiev and Shostakovich sort of “freak out like kids, simultaneously making no secret of the final “termination of life.” Strictly speaking, “the Pillow” is all about the same thing, i.e. the beginning of life and its natural, final ending. Overall, the album is a mini-encyclopaedia of Russian life, full of many widely varying subjects. One version of “Zashumela dubrava” (The oak-tree forest booms) has as its theme the Pugachev uprising of the 18th century and, at the same time, the theme of fatal destiny in The Captain’s Daughter by Pushkin. The other is the girls’ choir from the third act of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera “Pskovityanka” (The Pskov Maiden). “Timonya” (Little Timothy) - seemingly careless joyful chastooshkas (two- or four-line folk verses sung in a lively manner). But mind - within the plot these singing girls keep “picking on” some fellow, while invariably accompanying their singing on the flute of Pan, the ancient icon of eroticism. The album ends with “Obryad tishiny” (The rite of silence). But this is not Silence as construed by John Cage. This is the silence of inevitable peace.


Leonid Vintskevich (fender rhodes рояль)

Nick Vintskevich (саксофон)

Joel Taylor (барабаны)

Kip Reed (бас гитара)

Eugene Sharikov (бас гитара, синтезатор, перкуссия)

Svetlana Egorova (соло вокал: треки 4,5)

Rostan (фолк-хор)

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