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Cyril Moshkow's articles in English: selected

A humble collection of my articles that were published in English, mostly in Down Beat or Moscow-based Moscow Today and Tomorrow or, in one or two cases, as liner notes to somebody's CDs. Please note that I placed raw, unedited versions here (since English was not my native language, and I never studied it formally, my English writings normally needed a serious editor's touch, more just a mere fine tuning.)

"A Quickie Guide To Jazz Festivals In Eastern Europe": Cyril Moshkow's 2004 article on AllAboutJazz.Com

New York Voices in Moscow, 2002

New York Voices, the vocal quartet from, according to their name, New York (actually, from upstate New York), has proven the best (and maybe the only) jazz vocal unit of the 1990s. Led by Damon Meader, the NYV came to fame mixing complex bebop vocalese tradition with more widely accessible pop jazz hits. Unlike many other jazz vocal collectives, the NYV are equally strong in both a cappella and instrumental-backed performance in which Meader, the band leader, normally takes part - he is a more than satisfactory saxophone player.
On November 5 and 6, they performed in Moscow (for the second time in their career). Both gigs took place at Le Club, Russian capital's jazz must-go. The New York Voices mostly performed the material of their 6th album, "Sing, Sing, Sing" (2001), that represented their vocals-and-orchestra side and required a big band participation, which was provided by Igor Butman Big Band, arguably the country's best full-size jazz big band today.
This was an almost perfect balance between hundred-percent mainstream jazz style-setting, with no excursions neither into avant-garde nor into popular synthetic "smooth" jazz, and completely delightful and "organic" performance, with no boredom and formality that often comes with so many mainstream acts. Though it was visible that the vocalists and the big band needed some more rehearsals together to get more successfully through some of Damon Meader's complex arrangements, the resulting sound was fairly good, enriched by many a bright solo from the orchestra's gifted instrumentalists, from the youngest, like tenor saxist Dima Mospan (who is barely 18) or trumpet player Vitaly Golovniov, to the most experienced, like Soviet-era jazz legend Vadim Ahmetgareyev on trombone or the bandleader himself, Igor Butman on tenor saxophone. The NYV members looked really delighted by what came out from their collaboration with the orchestra - and so was the audience.
(originally written for MOSCOW TODAY AND TOMORROW)

Gary Burton in Moscow, 2002

Muscovite jazz community is getting more and more used to the fact that they don't have to wait for aeons for the visits of their favorite jazzmen - moreover, some of them come again and again. So did Gary Burton, one of the world's top vibraphone players, who performed at Le Club on November 11-13: this was his second appearance in Moscow during one calendar year. The famed vibist, who is the five-times Grammy prize bearer and executive vice president at the world-renown Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, is touring in a piano-vibes duo setting (as he normally does during the last two decades), and his partner is Makoto Ozone, Japanese jazz piano superstar who now resides the U.S.
Burton's evolution since he first appeared on stage in early 1960s looked somehow inverted: from the flame and passion of his early jazz rock fusion projects recorded for RCA and Atlantic, through introverted, meditation-like works for European label ECM in the 1970s and 80s, to his present conservative, style-preserving, no-step-aside performances, or, simply said, from innovation to preservation - that is Gary Burton's career formula. But somehow the vibes great has managed to convert this inverted direction into his strength. Yes, he does preserve. But what he preserves is not boring, or regressive, or anti-modern by its nature. What Gary Burton preserves is the art itself, the art of playing vibraphone. After all, it was Burton who enriched the vibes playing with his unique full-harmony, four-mallet technique, and it was him who opened new horizons for many players yet to come. So he has a pretty wide musical heritage to preserve, browsing freely and deliberately through the whole history of individual vibraphone playing styles: from early, pre-swing, 1920s sounds of Red Norvo, through swing era peaks reached by Lionel Hampton in the 40s, and to the 1960s innovations made by Milt Jackson and then Bobby Hutchinson - and to his own discoveries of 1970s. Having mastered all those styles, so different (both technically and aesthetically,) and being able to melt them all into his own, very personal and refined approach, Gary Burton is probably the most prominent stylist on his instrument today. 
(originally written for MOSCOW TODAY AND TOMORROW)

"Alone And Together", Andrei Kondakov - Paul Bollenback, 2002 

If a Russian jazz musician decides that he might want something more than just domestic fame, he has three different options to choose from.
Option number one is to go to America and stay there forever. This way is probably the most desperate, because America has zillions of its own jazz musicians who compete in a relatively narrow market sector. It is quite difficult to compete with the guys who grew up in an ongoing day-by-day battle for their own place in the sun. And do not forget that many of them play way better than you. So the ones who choose that way deserve at least some respect. And note that some of the guys who went to America to stay did a pretty good job anyway. Look at the trumpet virtuoso Valery Ponomarev, who was with the Jazz Messengers in the late 70s. Look at Alex Sipiagin, the trumpet player with Mingus Big Band, or at his bandmate, bassist Boris Kozlov.
Option number two is to go to America, but not forever. Sooner or later, those guys return, and not because they fail. No, they get the education and the experience they need, and then they are bringing it all back home. They are not "just locals" anymore: they can play at home with all their might (evolved and polished in America), and they can go literally anywhere at any time they want, because their American experience allows them to stand (if not win) any competition. Look at Igor Butman, Russia's premiere sax man, who spent a decade in the U.S. to become both a brilliant performer and an active (and lucky!) producer who knows "how wheels are rolling" and uses this knowledge for establishing stronger Russian-American jazz links, by bringing Americans to the Russian stage and vice versa.
And there is a third option. A way that requires a musician to be as excellent as if he chooses one of the first two options, but at the same time to work perhaps even harder. This way is to get international without leaving Russia. And this is what pianist Andrei Kondakov does.
Born in Ukraine in 1962, Andrei studied music theory at Dnepropetrovsk Music School (Ukraine), jazz piano at Petrozavodsk Music College (Northern Russia) and classical composition at St.Petersburg Conservatory. While still living in Petrozavodsk, Andrei co-led a quartet with guitar player Andrei Ryabov (now New York resident - see "option number one"). This group toured the Soviet Union with American sax man Ritchie Cole, was hailed by Soviet jazz critics and rated first among Soviet jazz combos in late 80s - early 90s. 
In 1992, Kondakov started his solo career. He toured Russia and recorded two albums with a quartet that included Lenny White on drums, Eddie Gomez on bass and Igor Butman on saxophone. He also introduced several American vocalists (most notably Napua Davoy from New York and Denise Perrier from San Francisco) and instrumentalists (including saxist Ravi Coltrane, son of the late jazz giant John Coltrane) to Russian audiences, as well as performed with them in the U.S. In 2000, he started the first Russian-Brazilian music project. 
But Andrei's collaboration with American guitarist Paul Bollenback is perhaps the most important in what he presently does in music. They first met in the mid-90s in the States. Then Paul Bollenback, at that time a Washington, D.C. resident and collaborator with organist Joey DeFrancesco, started to tour Russia with Andrei almost each year - sometimes as a part of different projects, sometimes in a duo. Now residing in NYC, Bollenback combines both brilliant technique and great artistic sense. His playing includes a wide variety of influences, from "Soul Grooves" (the title of his 1999 album) to Wes Montgomery-like octave runs and to rock'n'roll high-energy ostinatos. This makes him a natural collaboration choice for Kondakov, whose style is no less eclectic, and playing abilities no less excellent.
The duet setting is probably the most challenging for recording. It requires both players to show their best interaction skills (because they are only two and must interact as effectively as possible, if they do not want to ruin the music). It prevents them from playing anything weak in the hope that it would hot be heard behind rhythm section work (because there is no rhythm section, and listeners can hear any single note they play). And it gives them virtually no chance to take a break and regain the concentration while others are soloing, because there is nobody soloing except them.
And I should admit that, regarding all those difficulties, the Paul Bollenback - Andrei Kondakov duo does a great job.
(originally written as the liner notes for "Alone And Together", Andrei Kondakov - Paul Bollenback release on Boheme Music)

Ethno Jazz Trio festival, Chisinau, Moldova, 2002

Trigon, the trio made up by Anatol Stefanet (viola), Oleg Baltaga (drums) and Alexandru Murzac (bass guitar), have served as their native Republic of Moldova's main jazz product during the last decade. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, Trigon members produced the Ethno Jazz Trio festival in Moldova's capital, Chisinau, in late September. Dedicated exclusively to Trigon's own style and format, the event displayed enough diversity, ranging from the exquisite trad-classical-vanguard mixture of Moscow's Second Approach Project (Tatiana Komova, voc; Andrei Razin, p, Igor Ivanushkin, b) to the blatant folk-rock of the Troitsa group from Belarus, or from the exhilarating modal landscapes painted by Bulgarian saxophonist Anatoly Vapirov, Tatar guitarist Enver Izmailov, and Hungarian percussionist Kornel Horvath to the colorful percussion trio headed by Turkish superstar Okay Temiz. Bertrand Renaudin (dr) and Olivier Cahours (g) joined forces with viola-wizard Stefanet in a French-Moldavian project, Izmailov's own Tatar Trio provided exotic odd-rhythms from Crimea with more than a hint to Stanley Jordan's technique, while Poland's Magic Carpathians and Germany's Bardomaniacs delved into foreign cultural grounds. During the morning symposiums, moderated by Ghenadie Ciobanu, president of the Moldavian Composers' Union, Down Beat's only East European contributors had the chance to meet for the first time, and sign this report jointly:

Virgil Mihaiu, Cyril Moshkow
(originally written for DOWN BEAT; the co-author is another Down Beat correspondent in East Europe who lives in Kluj, Romania)


Jazz at the Hermitage Garden Festival, 2002

Jazz at the Hermitage Garden Festival became one of Moscow's jazz scene mainstays in last five years. Five years for a jazz festival, especially in Russia, means the time to look back at what is done. The fact hat five years of this festival, at the same time, meant eighty years of the registered history of jazz in Russia (the first jazz concert in Moscow took place in 1922), made the organizers to make the history of Russian jazz the festival's main theme.
Each of three festival evenings on what once was green lawns of the tiny Hermitage garden started with a big band performance. The Krasnodar Municipal Big Band, led by alto saxist Georgy Garanian, opened the festival with what looked like a historical panorama of jazz in the former USSR - from early swing pieces by late Alexander Tsfasman to Garanian's own jazz-rock originals from the 1970s. Igor Butman Big Band represented the present day of the Russian jazz, with most of the main soloists younger than 30 and the leader himself, not yet 40, a world-class reedman who was once praised by the U.S. president Bill Clinton as "the best saxophone player living, who happened to be a Russian". And Oleg Lundstrem Orchestra, the oldest jazz big band in existence according to Guinness Book of Records (since 1934!), with silver-headed veterans on most chairs, represented the Russian jazz history itself. Interesting that the festival's best vocal performance, that of American singer Deborah Brown, was accompanied by this exact orchestra.
Russian jazz vets made the most of the festival's tight schedule. St.Petersburg violin virtuoso David Goloshokin, in his late 50s, has once again proven that old jazz standards, so familiar-sounding and even weary, could turn into pure brilliants under a master's hands. Anatoly Kroll, once the famous bandleader who disappeared from sight since his orchestra disbanded in late 1990s, gave an impressive comeback as a pianist in a mere quartet setting, with all three partners more than twice younger than himself (the prodigy drummer, Petr Ivchenko, was barely 17). Sax man Alexey Kozlov showed up with another incarnation of his Arsenal which happened to be the Soviet Union's premiere jazz rock fusion group in the 1970s, and pianist Igor Bril, Russian jazz education godfather and chief of Gnessin's Russian Academy of Music jazz program, performed with his twin sons, both saxophone players. But the festival's main intrigue was Danilin-Kuznetsov All Stars, an all-veteran band led by old-school jazz guitar master Alexey Kuznetsov and Vladimir Danilin, once one of the country's best pianists who turned to accordion (a rare and unusual instrument for jazz) about ten years ago. The band included two of USSR's top jazz trumpet players of 1960s and 70s - Guerman Lukianov and Andrey Tovmasian. Each of those two was once a leader of a large school of followers - respectively, those who tried to find original, distinctively Russian sound and those who tried to master all secrets of the genuine American performance technique. If Lukianov was still active, though moderately, throughout the 1990s, Tovmasian, due to his long but successful battle with a mental illness, never appeared in front of the audience since mid-1980s. Each of them performed his trademark theme: Lukianov played "Golden Hands of Silver", his twisty original from mid-80s dedicated to composer Horace Silver, and Tovmasian recalled "Lord Great Novgorod", his typically Blue Note-sounding piece from the early 1960s, surprisingly with a clearly audible touch of Russian folklore.
But you can't have a jazz festival in a metropolitan city without making it international. Besides of Deborah Brown, there was the Flamenco Jazz, an interesting, though not that technically perfect, guitar-bass-drums trio from Catalonia, and a Swedish band that tried to fuse straight-ahead jazz and the tradition of modern Argentinean tango. But the most impressive sets were played at the end of the festivals second and third nights, respectively by the Chicagoan group, The David Boykin Expanse, and the famed New Yorker, saxophone player Gary Bartz.
The Expanse represented the branch of jazz music previously rarely heard live by Muscovites - the AACM, or Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians, the movement that unites three generations of African-American avant-garde jazz musicians in Chicago. The music basically comes from the leader, saxophonist David Boykin, but is equally evolved and expanded by Jim Baker, the pianist, and flutist Nicole Mitchell. Though Russian musicians rarely turn to AACM style, the band included one Russian member, a drummer from Yaroslavl called Mikhail Fadeichev, who successfully substituted for The Expanse's staff drummer that was unable to make the Russian tour.
Gary Bartz's band at the Hermitage Festival was entirely Russian, except himself. The 62-years-old great, who worked with the likes of Max Roach, Art Blakey and Miles Davis, found excellent partners in Muscovite trio led by pianist Lev Kushnir. The only disappointment left by his set was its brevity: he could barely play 35 minutes, exactly until 11 p.m., after which the music, due to the Hermitage Garden's location inside a residential neighborhood and according to the city's strict noise regulations, had to stop.
(originally written for MOSCOW TODAY AND TOMORROW)

Victor Bailey in Russia, 2002

If Victor Bailey is not the best electric bass player in the world, he is arguably the most busy one. Gained his reputation while playing for Weather Report, the most innovative jazz rock fusion formation of the 70s and 80s, he continued to tour with this group's leader, keyboard innovator Joe Zawinul, throughout the 1990s. But this was not his only job: he toured and recorded with literally all leading forces in fusion as well as in pop music, including touring with Madonna.
Compared to his activity as a sideman, his solo career looked relatively humble. His latest album, "That's Right!" (2001), that he presented in Russia this June, was only his third. But Bailey, now in his forties, says that he is in no haste - it is more important to him to record an album that will express his creative energy without any compromises with record label executives, and that is his latest recording's case.
Victor Bailey Group performed in Novokuznetsk and Moscow. Novokuznetsk was their first stop in Russia, and the band members looked a little startled upon their arrival in this Siberian city they never heard before of. But warm welcome from Siberian jazz fans at the "Jazz at the Old Fortress" festival was enough to eliminate their fear of Siberia. Four concerts at Moscow's premiere jazz venue, Le Club, followed, presenting their high-class performance of very creative and sophisticated jazz-rock-styled material. Victor Bailey found an excellent partner in Benny Maupin, the virtuoso of a large arsenal of reed instruments (soprano, alt and tenor saxes plus bass clarinet). The most experienced member of the group, Mr. Maupin started his career in jazz in early 60s, but came to fame in 1969 while playing bass clarinet on the first and most important jazz rock album in history, Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew". Many years of collaboration with another jazz rock pioneer, keyboardist Herbie Hancock in the 70s made Maupin one of the most respected saxophonists in jazz rock fusion. 
Another member of the group, young guitarist Dave Gilmour, never performed with Bailey before. But he is a well-known soloist in his own right, and his latest solo album, "Ritualism", is just praised by jazz critics worldwide.
Keyboardist Jim Beard, though looking very humble and quiet, is another jazz rock movement veteran: like Bailey played for Weather Report, Jim was the member of another key formation in this style's history, British John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchectra.
On the drums we surprisingly found Krzystof Zawadsky, Poland's leading jazz drummer, who urgently replaced Victor Bailey Group's staff percussionist who was unable to make the tour.
It is no secret that jazz rock fusion's best days are now well in the past. Converted into commercial instrumental pop music, so-called smooth jazz, this movement in general left far behind the creative peaks reached by style's innovators in the 1970s. Victor Bailey is one of the last who inherited its creative power and stylistic diversity. As a bandleader, arranger and composer, he manages to mix together bright, groovy bass lines (he is a bassist extraordinaire indeed), mystical and psychedelic sax and guitar sounds and driving, vital rhythm basis in a good balance that gives some excellent results, good for any purpose - to analyze its musical depths, to follow the improvisational fantasy of the soloists or simply to tap one's feet along the rhythm, depending on who is the listener. It's good to know that jazz rock, once so vital and popular, still can give such bright results after two decades of slow recession.
(originally written for MOSCOW TODAY AND TOMORROW)

Boheme Jazz Festival, Moscow, Russia, 2002

Fourth annual Boheme Jazz Festival, one of Russia largest jazz events, took place in Moscow on May 21-25. This year, the festival's formula has been extended comparing to the event's first three editions - from clubs and small art centers, Boheme Jazz has moved to large concert halls. According to Andrey Feofanov, the festival's producer and president of Boheme Music, Russia's leading jazz, folklore and classical label, "This year's formula is to bring to Russia's capital several prominent jazz artists, whose music is broader than just mainstream or straight-ahead, and to meet them with not only hardcore jazz fans, but with a broader audience, preferably young, whose musical interests are wide enough to include improvised music - even if these guys do not know this music well yet". Festival highlights included Jan Garbarek Group that sold out the 2,000-seats Moscow Youth Palace and has been praised by both jazz fans who waited for the Norwegian star saxophonist since 1979 (when he first visited Moscow) and younger music lovers who were not too familiar with Garbarek's mystical "atmospheric" style before, as well as Vienna Art Orchestra, arguably Europe's greatest big band, who brought to Russia their "Art & Fun" program - a bright show that combines diverse, multi-stylistic music and intense, astonishingly tight arrangements (both by bandleader mathias ruegg) with outstanding improvisational capabilities of nearly all its 20-plus members. Another landmark performance featured Russian-Brazilian Project, led by pianist Andrei Kondakov, a St.Petersburg resident, which included four New-York based musicians - bassist Sergio Brandao, drummer Paulo Braga and guitarist Paul Bollenback, plus Brazilian trumpet great Claudio Roditi. "We're eager for more," said Andrey Kondakov who collaborates with Boheme Music since its start in 1998. "This fall, Boheme Jazz is expanded into other regions of Russia; I'm bringing my quartet with sax man Ravi Coltrane to Boheme's first non-Moscow festival in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea."
(originally written for DOWN BEAT; appeared in September 2001 issue as Moshkow's 8th publication in Down Beat)

Jazz of Four Cultures festival, Lodz, Poland, 2001

Jazz of Four Cultures is a new jazz festival that took place in Lodz, Poland's second biggest city, on December 14-16, 2001. The festival's idea was to represent all four ethnical elements that formed Lodz' unique cultural heritage - Poles, Russians, Germans and Jews. That's why only artists from Poland, Russia, Germany and Israel were invited. Israeli band, Yuval Cohen Quartet, was the most straight-ahead act at the festival, which is no surprise: reedist Cohen and guitarist Amos Hoffman spent many years in New York City where they could get enough hardcore jazz experience. Overcrowded Jazzga, the only jazz venue in Lodz, gave them a very warm welcome. Polish band, Oxen, led by alto saxist Grzegorz Piotrowski, offered their own, extremely intensive version of advanced jazz trip-hop electronica fusion, while German band Modern String Quartet were about to bridge the gap between jazz and classical music. These four, Jorg Widmoser and Wilfried Zrenner (violins), Andreas Hoericht (viola ) and cellist Jost Hecker, play together since 1983, bringing to their audiences refined arrangements of jazz classics from Gershwin to Hancock plus their own compositions, enriched by matured improvisational solos. Russia was represented by pianist Andrei Razin and the Second Approach Project. One of Russia's most uncommon jazz collectives, it was created in 1998 to perform its leader's music on the sharp edge between jazz and modern classical music, with rich elements of different ethnic music cultures, brought to the Project's sound by singer Tatiana Komova who mastered Gypsy folk singing tradition. The collective recently released "Ex Tempore" album with New York-based saxophonist Mike Ellis on German label NRW Jazz and performed at several European jazz festivals before make it to Poland.
(originally written for DOWN BEAT; appeared in March 2002 issue as Moshkow's 7th publication in Down Beat)

On The Carpet festival, Moscow, Russia, 2000

Moscow's most exotic venue, Dom (literally, The Home) hosts 2nd On The Carpet Festival, dedicated to various aspects of oriental music, on December 14-17, 2000. As Dom's programming in general, festival schedule is highly eclectic and includes modern and traditional improvised music based on elements of different musical cultures of Asian descent. Its highlights included performances of Sainkho Namchelak, female ethno jazz singer from the Central Asian autonomy of Tuva (Russia) who in last ten years lives and performs in Europe (she records extensively for Leo), and New York-based new klezmer duo of Frank London (trumpet) and Anthony Coleman (keyboards). Those last two joined forces with several Russian musicians; the most impressing part of their performance was Frank London's spontaneous duo with Yuri Parfyonov, one of Russia's best trumpet improvisers. Parfyonov, 55, raised up in Uzbekistan, masters both straight-ahead jazz and oriental music languages, which is effectively proven by his recent album that was recorded together by electric bass player Alex Rostotsky ("Oriental Impress", L-Junction, 2000).
Dom is also the home for Alternativa, Russia's most important international festival of new music, and probably the only place in Russian capital where one can listen to live new jazz and new improvised music regularly.
(originally written for DOWN BEAT; appeared in March 2001 issue as Moshkow's 4th publication in Down Beat)

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  Cyril Moshkow, 1999-2004
Any use of these texts (in print, on the Web etc.) is only possible upon the author's written permission.

Cyril Moshkow, 1997-2005