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Yuri Goloubev: Of Chocolate Cake & Other Simple Metaphors

By Published: April 5, 2010

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 American—influenced 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 choice—play mainstream in the most traditional way, or be an avant-garde free improviser. Almost nothing in between!

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