Yuri Goloubev: Of Chocolate Cake & Other Simple Metaphors
AAJ: You formed one-third of a trio along with Gwilym Simcock and Asaf Sirkis; how did that trio come about?
From left: Gwilym Simcock, Yuri Goloubev
YG: It dates back to the end of 2005 when Asaf and I were recording on a Klaus Gesing album. Glauco Venier couldn't make the recording session and Asaf Sirkis recommended Gwilym to sub for Glauco. I was kind of worried because I didn't know this guy at all. It wasn't a question of whether he was good or bad, just I didn't know him and we only had one rehearsal.
So we got to our first and only rehearsal before recording the album and I said: "Okay, let's play some standards just to warm up." The idea was just to get to know each other. We started to play some standard and within about ten to fifteen seconds I thought of Gwilym: "Oh, this guy is a genius." I have never changed that opinion. After the recording we did several tours with that band.
One day at sound check it was just me and Gwilym and I said: "Why don't we do a duo recording?" I knew he had a working trio with Martin France and Phil Donkin and I didn't want to create any competition. He said: "Good idea, but why don't we do a trio recording with Asaf?" "Wonderful," I thought. "Let's do it."
The idea behind the recording was to play contemporary jazz tunes that are only played by their authors. Over the course of something like eight months we did roughly fifteen concerts in Italy.
AAJ: Is SGS still active and are their plans to record again?
YG: I would love to but SGS had to yield to Gwilym's new trio. He has to participate in projects only of his name now. We had some gigs booked at festivals so I had to take these gigs under the name of Gwilym's new trio. It's a wonderful band, very different from SGS and I really enjoy playing with Gwilym and James Maddren. On the other hand I'd put a lot of energy into promoting SGS, radio shows, interviews, reviews and finally the gigs started to arrive. Right at that point the project had to close and it's a pity.
AAJ: It is a shame, because I'm sure a lot of people recognized how good the SGS CD is, how good that trio is.
YG: I really thank you for your kind words about that album. It was a wonderful pleasure to work in that trio. I don't know, maybe one day Gwilym's obligations will change, and maybe some politics will change. Who knows? You can never know what's going to happen. We've got a gig, the new trio gig in Luxembourg, April 2011, but first you have to arrive alive to 2011. [laughs]
AAJ: Although SGS is in hibernation let's say, you're still playing with Gwilym in his new trio with drummer James Maddren. This is another quite special trio as anyone who has seen the trio live will affirm; can you tell us about the particular chemistry of this group?
YG: Well, it's really difficult to describe in words. It's very different from the SGS trio. The energy is different. When we started playing together one of the things that I really liked about James is his capacity to build up a solo. He's really creative in building a solo and taking it somewhere. In the first gigs we did together I was just completely astonished; I was captured by his solos from the beginning to the end. He is very creative.
Coming back to your question, it's like, what does this chocolate cake taste of? I can tell you it tastes of good chocolate but it's hard to describe, you know?
AAJ: Now that's a simple metaphor and a good one.
YG: A simple metaphor, right! [laughs]
AAJ: Which brings us to your latest release Metafore Semplici. This is a strong musical statement. Let me begin by asking you about the chorales which appear on this disc; this is not the first time you've recorded chorales and I wondered what the appeal of this musical form is.
YG: That's not such an easy question; I have composed four tunes called chorale so far. One of them is on the pianist Michele Di Toro's album and another is on the Sardinian saxophonist Enzo Favata's album. Nearly all of them have been composed in Germany, strangely. The chorale maybe doesn't enter into the normal jazz idiom. For the opening chorale on Metafore Semplici I could have written a four voices score as if it were a real choir. It could evoke some memories of the church but I didn't really have that in mind.
It's an elaboration of some ancient form of music. I've incorporated more complex harmonies into simple melodies, and more unpredictable harmonic and melodic movements. I don't know, once again it's a question of chocolate cake. [laughs] It's difficult to talk about music. As Gustav Mahler said: "If a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music."
AAJ: Where would you say you compositional style comes from? Is it more jazz than classical or is it a hybrid of the two genres?
YG: As I mentioned before, my introduction to the music began with composing. My mother was a pianist and when she was practicing at home I would take the scores and try to copy down what was written there. That was when I was a little kid of two or three years old. Then at some point I decided not to copy but to write something of my own, without any knowledge of how to do it and torturing my mother how to play it. In time it gradually became conscious composing.
I nearly graduated in composition but I didn't do it. At the Moscow Conservatory the Dean of composition, Professor Leman, whose lessons I attended for many years, wanted me to graduate in composition but I didn't do it for the simple reason that he wanted me to write a symphony. Back then in '95 I was already full time employed with the orchestra, plus I had a lot of things on the go, and to me writing scores means eight hours a day locked away in a room somewhere for months. That would have meant to drop completely out of everything and I just couldn't afford it. It was too heavy.
I was still composing some smaller classical scores from time to time, and when I did my first album, Toremar Island (Landy Star, 2001), which was released in Russia, one critic said that strangely the boundaries between the jazz music I write and the classical are very defined. That was back in '01 but now I must say that for a number of years I use a lot of principles of classical composing in jazz compositions.
For example, I use a lot of contemporary classical music techniques in harmony. This is something which is hopefully not so easy to notice. Basically serial technique is based on a series of notes which must not be repeated. So I apply the not-to-be-repeated theory to the harmonic structure; it's not that you can't repeat exactly but it has a lot to do with the logical architecture of the piece. To explain this technique completely would take quite a while.
Nowadays the boundaries between all the genres are becoming thinner and thinner so in the melodic lines of what I write there are not many bebop elements there, so I would include also some phrasing that I would use in contemporary classical music and it fits in quite nicely. So for sure, I do use some components of contemporary classical composing but thinking about it in a modern jazz way.
We have to go forward; it's not so interesting when a musician gets locked into one idiom. I remember a girl some years ago who was trying to write some jazz and she told me her composition was nineteen bars and she was very unhappy because it should have had sixteen as this is the standard of jazz. I was surprised because it can have seventeen, it can have three; whatever you want.