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Vadim Neselovsky Trio

Get Up and Go

BluJazz BJ3449 [61:00]

 

On A Bicycle

Winter

San Felio

Station Taiga*

Who Is It?

Krai

Interlude 1

Prelude for Vibes

Get Up And Go

Interlude II

Almost December*

(All tunes composed by Neselovskyi)

Vadim Neselovskyi (piano, melodica), Ronen Itzik (drums, precussion),

Dan Loomis (bass), Sara Serpa (voice)*

Recorded Studio 1, Berklee College of Music, Boston MA, April 14 2016.

Ukranian born (in Odessa in 1977), Vadim Neselovski, who spent some of his youth in Germany, is now based in New York. He is Professor of Jazz Piano at Berklee College in Boston. He has worked extensively (as pianist, composer and arranger) with Gary Burton.

Neselovskyi is highly literate, musically speaking, well-trained in the classical tradition (indeed he studied composition at the Odessa Music School from the age of 8). But he also has an affinity with blues and Latin music as well as the modern mainstream of jazz. He has said that he thinks of himself as “primarily a composer”, but he is also an impressive jazz soloist, passionate and subtle in equal measure in his playing. His technique and his wide musical knowledge seem always to be at the service of his own ideas and emotions.

There is a strong sense of interplay and mutual trust amongst the members of this trio, whether playing upbeat numbers like the opener ‘On A Bicycle’ (which presumably has some kind of relationship to the poem of the same title – (in English at least) – by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko) or ‘Station Taiga’, utterly different in mood, slower, and hauntingly ethereal, not least because of the beautiful wordless vocal by the Portugese singer Sara Serpa . The two tracks, in short, are utterly different; that they both make very rewarding listening says much about both the range of Neselovskyi’s writing and the empathetic skills of his trio. Contrast, indeed, is clearly an important principle in the programming of this CD. So, for example, ‘Winter’, a rich evocation of the bleak and the chill is immediately succeeded by the altogether sunnier ‘San Felio’ – I wonder if this title perhaps refers to the resort of Sant Feliu de Guíxols on the Catalonian coast, given that ‘Station Taiga’ (an important junction on the West Siberian railway) suggests that Neselovskyi has a fondness for titles (and tunes) which evoke places.

Perhaps the outstanding individual track is ‘Krai’, played by the pianist alone. This is beautifully structured and is the most overtly ‘classical’ work here. Neselovskyi’s notes to the CD tell us something important about this piece. On a day in June of 2014 the trio were due to play at Ukraine’s major jazz festival in Lviv. Shortly before they went on stage, they and the audience learned that a Ukrainian military plane had been shot down by separatists. The trio scrapped the programme they had planned, and, writes Neselovsky, ‘I started with a solo piece, Krai, that quotes an Orthodox prayer’. ‘Krai’ is, indeed, as recorded here, deeply thoughtful, one might even say prayerful, even if, like me, you don’t recognize the Orthodox quotation. I suspect that the performance of ‘Krai’ is fully scored, with little or no improvisation involved. Indeed, I’d suggest that it is a fine enough piece to merit being taken up by some purely ‘classical’ pianists.

Titles can, of course, be misleading. ‘Get Up and Go’ I expected, from its title, to be full of untroubled energy and vivacity, of pizzazz, even – all energetic urban chic and glamour. But my first hearing made it clear that this was not the case. It was only after this first hearing that I read the booklet notes, and found the composer describing the tune as ‘a composition of mine that deals with war, mourning and finding will power to overcome the toughest moments in life’. And, indeed, this is a performance which speaks of resilience and determination in the face of adversity (it also features some unexpected, but strangely fitting, work on the melodica by Neselovskyi).

Another memorable track is ‘Prelude for Vibes’, originally written for Gary Burton (and recorded by him) which generates and sustains an attractively dancing quality, while also finding room for some virtuosic playing by Neselovskyi, though even his most dazzling runs never sound merely showy. I suppose the pianist is the one musician here likely to become a big ‘name’, though one shouldn’t underestimate the contributions of bassist Dan Loomis (some of his bowed work is particularly effective) or the drummer, Ronen Itzik, from Israel, who generates a straightforward swing when required, while also responding to / articulating some complex rhythmic changes elsewhere. For me, at least, as someone who treasures her duos with the very individual pianist Ran Blake – Camera Oscura (2010) and Aurora (2012) the presence of Sara Serpa is a valuable bonus (even if she is heard on just two tracks).

This beautiful, and emotionally substantial, album is highly recommended.

Glyn Pursglove


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