“Jazz is based on a great love of music”
– Jazz appeared in Russia in Soviet times – was it different then? And which of the musicians of that era influenced the development of trends in Russia?
– We must pay tribute to America, which was the pioneer of this culture. Jazz came to Russia in the 1920s – the musicians in our country were then more classical. But in the era of NEP, jazz really flourished. Then the music began to gradually enter our lives. Although, of course, the party considered jazz hostile art.
And then you can select several important milestones in the history of Russian jazz. First, the appearance of Leonid Utyosov – not only as a star of that time, but also as a person who gave work to a large number of musicians. A talented actor and an excellent pop singer, he preferred to perform with jazz musicians and supported young talents. And during the thaw period a powerful pop-jazz school has already appeared.
Jazz invisibly and continuously present in our lives. He was always. For example, in the late Soviet time we heard it in cartoons and movies. Many respected filmmakers invited Saxophonist George Garanian and his ensemble to perform the parts. For example, the maestro played the saxophone in the Diamond Hand and conducted the orchestra in the Pokrovsky Gates. In addition, George Aramovich gave the jazz frame of our stage – Anna Herman, Lev Leshchenko, Alla Pugacheva, Muslim Magomayev. By the way, I am proud that I was lucky to meet George Aramovich and have time to cooperate.
– Is it possible to name the time when the active cultural exchange of domestic and foreign musicians began? What did he give us?
– It seems to me that this is the time we are living now. Borders are open, most musicians can travel abroad – learn, share experiences, do joint projects. And the most powerful moment happened last year, when International Jazz Day happened in Russia! International Jazz Day is a very big event for the entire world of the jazz community, which is held every year in different cities of the world. And on 28, 29 and 30 April 2018, St. Petersburg for the first time from Russian cities became the world capital of jazz. Nothing like this has happened before. A powerful landing of foreign jazz performers came to Russia – the winner of 14 Grammy awards was pianist Herbie Hancock, singer Dianne Reeves, guitarist Lee Ritenour, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, trumpeter James Morrison and many others. World-class stars performed on the same stage with Russian musicians, gave master classes, participated in showcases. The directors of the most famous foreign jazz festivals arrived. I still remember the euphoria of those days. It was really a holiday on our street!
– Russian jazz – today it has its own face? How do foreign musicians see it?
– I think that one face is Igor Butman. He graduated from the world’s most prestigious jazz college, Berkeley in Boston. A person who was able to go beyond the scope of Russian popularity, was able to achieve recognition in the West – not only from the audience, but in professional circles. He is invited to perform at foreign venues. In Russia, there are probably no musicians with such possibilities.
“Russian jazz” today is both traditional motifs and music mixed with classics, avant-garde, folk motifs, electronics, flowing into many genres. Unfortunately, in the West Russian jazz, I would even say broader, Russian music is presented rather poorly. To be aware of it, it is necessary to pursue a certain policy at the state level. Today, very few of our musicians perform at world-class jazz festivals.
This requires a structure that will be engaged in the export of artists. And then it will not be one team that went to one festival, but 10 teams to 10 festivals. I talked about this a lot earlier, tried to create an export bureau for Russian musicians abroad, but did not find support for the project.
– How popular is jazz with the Russian public? In what form do they prefer to listen to jazz in our country – a concert at a club, open-air, a musical in a theater?
– There are completely different forms. I see how jazz clubs in Moscow are actively working: Alexei Kozlov Club on Maroseyka, Igor Butman Club, Essay Jazz Club, Andrei Makarevich, or, for example, Powerhouse on Taganka, very young for me, is a young modern platform with very fashionable jazz. In addition, Zaryadie appeared with its jazz program. And, of course, the traditional summer festivals – our “Jazz Estate”, “Jazz in the Hermitage Garden, Jazz Seasons in Leninsky Gorki,“ Jazz City ”in the Pharmaceutical Garden. Very lacking only festivals during the autumn-summer season.
But you always want to connect not only Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also other cities of Russia to such a process. If we talk about the regions, then there jazz rests on individual personalities – true fans of their work, who continue to do everything to develop this culture. For example, live the oldest festivals in Yaroslavl, Murmansk, Siberia.