Yuri Goloubev: Of Chocolate Cake & Other Simple Metaphors
AAJ: Was the Moscow Soloists, as the name maybe implies, an ensemble where improvisation took place?
YG: No, it was a regular chamber orchestra; there was no improvisation at all. We played anything from Mozart, Haydn and on to contemporary authors. Solo over Mozart? No.
AAJ: You played with some of the very top names in classical music, like Rostropovich and violinist Vadim Repin. You must have some wonderful memories of those experiences, no?
YG: I had a funny experience with Vadim, this was in the early nineties; I had to participate in a chamber music festival in St. Petersburg and Vadim was playing some jazz crossover piece with a pianist in the same concert and he asked me to take a bass and play a line with them.
Well, in fact, normally you remember something that was out of the norm so to speak. Like once the Moscow Soloists had to perform Shostakovich Piano concerto with a young Japanese pianist in Tokyo; we knew the piece thoroughly and were really cool about it. Then there was a rehearsal right off the ten-hour flight and this guy was playing everything upside down! I wish I could remember his name. I mean, he was a very good player, a very interesting musician, but all that he was doing was so unusual that instead of just an hour long rehearsal we had to spend nearly four hours.
AAJ: Growing up in Moscow, what were the facilities like for jazz musicians? Were there many venues, recording studios and record labels?
YG: First of all, one of the main differences between the life of a jazz musician in Russia and here in Europe let's say, is that in Russia the jazz musician would earn his living mainly, or even exclusively from doing private party gigs. There were club gigs but they paid very little and there were very few festivals and they also paid very little, so everybody's aim was just to do private parties.
I can't talk about how the situation is now because I haven't lived there for five years and it would be unfair to judge. But if I think about the '90s and the early '00s, that the jazz community was very mainstream oriented. It was very much Americaninfluenced and not at all European. A number of big European jazz names were completely unknown to the most folks over there. Everybody would say: "He plays like..." and in that sense personality in jazz was not very developed, nor appreciated. Strangely, to be appreciated, you had a choiceplay mainstream in the most traditional way, or be an avant-garde free improviser. Almost nothing in between!
AAJ: Does Russian jazz have a recognizable sound?
YG: In Russia for jazz musicians jazz is mainly rhythm, and not only in Russia, and I think that's wrong. As we all know there are three components to musicmelody, harmony and rhythm and when one of the components is missing it's like the chocolate cake is missing some chocolate, or it's only chocolate but there is no dough. Everyone is different, some hear jazz more rhythmically, some more harmonically and someone else more melodically. Someone would have all three components and somebody else only two. Thanks God we are all different
AAJ: What was your impression of the standard of jazz which you encountered in Italy?
YG: Obviously before I relocated I knew of people like Enrico Pieranunzi, Enrico Rava and Paolo Fresu. About year before I moved here I started checking out the local jazz scene because I wanted to work out if the whole thing would be doable or not and I was surprised to find many really good musicians; some of them are unknown, some little known and others well known but there are some incredibly good musicians.
However, my impression is that in Italy your career depends not so much on your quality but instead on fortune. Perhaps it's not only in Italy but here it's all closed circuits. I know some musicians who career-wise are doing great but who are not so valid musically and I know some extremely valid musicians who nobody knows about.
AAJ: You've mentioned some of the better known Italian musicians but who of the lesser know ones have most impressed you?
YG: That's not easy to answer, but one of the first musicians I got to know was the pianist Glauco Venier. He's an amazing musician, though he's not so well known inside Italy, and in fact most of his gigs are outside Italy. Now he's recorded for ECM with Norma Winstone and Klaus Gesing, plus he's touring a lot and becoming more known.
There's another excellent pianist, Ramberto Ciammarughi, there's Stefano Battaglia and a lot of really amazing guitarists. Another saxophonist I've recorded is Rosario Giuliani, though he's quite a big name. There are so many good musicians like Mauro Negri, Nico Gori and Stefano Cantini. There's a very interesting trumpet player who features on my album Metafore Semplice, Giovanni Falzone, and trumpeter Fabrizio Bosso, who's known internationally. There's an amazing young pianist called Claudio Filippini, from Pescara though living in Rome; I hope to record with him one day. He's only twenty-seven but he's very impressive. Well, there's really a whole bunch of great musicians over here, naming them all is just impossible.