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Change has been a constant in bassist Ruslan Khain's life. He was born in 1972 in Leningrad when the Soviet Union was still firmly and seemingly irrevocably in place. By 1994 when he was studying classical music at the Mussorgsky College of Music, the impossible had happened. The Soviet Union was no more and his home city was once again Saint Petersburg. Five years later Khain left for New York to play jazz. On arrival, he rapidly established his musical credentials at venues like Smalls, Fat Cat, Smoke, Kavehaz and Swing 46, sat in with such luminaries as Jimmy Cobb, Hank Jones, Frank Wess and Louis Hayes and cut an albumStars Fell On Alabamawith Clark Terry. Listening to his music, you'd swear Khain had lived in the Big Apple all his life. It's something to do with its urgency, the way it cooks and is always going placesdriven perhaps by the momentous events of his youth. Tie It In (Jazzing Music, 2008) is his first record as a leader and the tunes are all originals, in a style that might loosely be categorized as updated hard bop, with echoes of Benny Golson and Horace Silver. Khain's band is an impressive roster of emigres and native jazzers. Japanese trumpet player Yoshiro Okazaki (ex Makoto Ozone) in particular is a revelation, his solos wonderfully clear and concisely inventive. The leader's full-bodied bass is appropriately highlighted on "Chambers Street," a tribute to Paul, and "Virus," of which Khain states enigmatically, "The title says it all." Everyone gets a chance to blow on the freewheeling opener, "My Angel and Agent." The equally busy "Queen-cident" must be one of very few songs to have been inspired by a car accident. This one happened, with Khain himself involved, below the 59th Street, or Queensboro Bridge in NYC, hitherto immortalized musically in rather ghastly fashion by Simon and Garfunkel. The quirky and extremely catchy "Mackinac Island," written for a venue in Michigan where Khain went over big, is the only track to feature guitarist Ilya Lushtak. "Igna" is an attractive ballad featuring Richard Clements' understated piano and "Zohio" is dedicated to Zoe, a friend of Khain's, with no prizes for guessing where she comes from. The final track, "Last Visit," is dedicated to a Russian drummer who traveled to the USA expressly to see Khain. It is based on a riff that fades slowly and extremely effectively at the close. You can almost see the plane taking off, heading back to the world Khain left behind as he watches, burdened by inbuilt Russian melancholy. Then he turns and walks away. The future? "I plan to go wherever the music will take me," he says simply. "That is what I live for." As for the garish yellow tie featured on the album cover, I can exclusively reveal that it was purchased for $3 in a NYC souvenir shop. As for what it symbolizes, well Winston Churchill once famously referred to Russia as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." The music is what's really important here and it's well worth listening to.
Track Listing: My Angel and Agent; Chambers Street; Queen-cident; Igna; Virus; Zohio; Mackinac Island; Last Visit.
Personnel: Ruslan Khain, bass; Yoshiro Okazaki, trumpet; Dimitri Moderbacher, tenor saxophone; Josh Brown, trombone; Richard Clements, piano; Phil Stewart, drums. Ilya Lushtak, guitar, on Mackinac Island only.