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Dmitri Kolesnik at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola

AAJ Staff By

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Dmitri Kolesnik
Dizzy's Club Coca Cola
New York, NY
August 27, 2010

Dmitri Kolesnik came to New York from his native St Petersburg in 1991, to study bass with Ron Carter. Now Kolesnik is a firm fixture on the jazz scene in New York. At Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, Kolesnik's band featured trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, young piano star Anthony Wonsey, and his regular drum partner Jimmy Madison, formerly sideman to James Brown, Lionel Hampton and many other bands.

The tunes were mostly his own well-written compositions, including the eastern-colored "Russian Caravan" and the lushly chromatic song for his wife, "Aniuta." Kolesnik is a lead-from-the-front bassist, and his woody, firm and familiar sound was ever-present in the center of the instrumentation, a constant that united the music into a very enjoyable and sonorous presentation. His style has become more "micro" in the last two years, more concisely expressive, more delicate and yet persistent. For example, a particularly exotic part of the set was the solo bass introduction, more a prelude really, to the aforementioned "Russian Caravan."

This solo was improvised, and is perhaps a development of some earlier solo explorations that Kolesnik has used to preface a piece. It was indeed, a new section of music in itself. As the bassist said, "It has never been played before." The playing included slides and vibrato that may also have owed something to Shostakovich's writing for cello, in his two cello concertos, as much as to Ron Carter. It was very interesting and studied solo music, before the tune it was prefacing began its theme.

The band's set began at 1am on a Friday in August. Dizzy's is situated on the fifth floor of the Time Warner building, the building that also houses Jazz At Lincoln Center, and is at the 59th street Metro stop that is also dominated by the tall statue of Christopher Columbus. This is New York's well known commuter and traffic axis, Columbus Circle, at the south west corner of Central Park.

The apartments of the "alternative" Trump Tower glinted in the lights of the surrounding buildings and traffic, as the musicians brought the leader's personal takes on Russian landscapes and experiences to the audience. From the fifth floor of the club's well-glassed building, passing cars were reflected in the windows of the narrow tower (the official Trump Tower is across on 5th Avenue, a few streets down).

Steel and glass are in these newer Manhattan buildings as well represented as in John Lennon's notable song of that same name.

The set up of the band on the bandstand was arranged with the drummer, Madison, at right, so that he sat almost sideways, but pointing out into the crowd. "I apologize for playing with my back to you!" he said to a friend at a side table by the stage. The bonus for anyone seated there, however, was that they could witness the mechanics of Madison's first solo, a mind-blowing display of altered rhythms and pounding bass drum. His technique was there in clear view, for those seated behind the drum stool.

Dizzy's is booked by the well-known jazz figure and Artistic Manager Todd Barkan. "Just trying to make the world safe for bebop," he voiced to the band. Barkan introduced the band to the audience: "Jimmy Madison, one of the greatest drummers in the world," he said, before introducing the leader. "Dmitri is from Brooklyn, Russia," he joked. "One of the great bass players of our time."

The first tune to be played was a Kolesnik composition called "Regrets." Pianist Wonsey, who has a tremendous performance history ranging from Earl Hines-like explorations on Gershwin numbers to "sideways, over, under, down" playing on more avant-garde pieces, soon graced Kolesnik's tune with a beautiful descending run, before dancing into his solo. It was a great moment.

Then Madison began his impromptu extended solo, his Zjildjian cymbals and bass drum ringing and resounding. Kolesnik stood smiling as Madison took the audience on a journey in rhythm. People began swaying in their chairs. The reason for Kolesnik's smile was that he did not know, in advance, that Madison was going to explode like this. It was the first number of the set, and here already was drama. Jazz, a music that allows extensive room for improvisation, can always show the unexpected. Examples from history are the piano solo of Jess Stacey at the Goodman concert at Carnegie Hall, and the so-called "epic ride" of Paul Gonsalves at Newport in 1956, that re-transformed the fortunes of the Ellington band. You never know when it's going to happen.

Kolesnik began the second tune, "Russian Caravan," with his (similar) mini-epic of a bass prelude. His playing may show his studentship under the precise Ron Carter, but there was something different in this solo that showed Kolesnik's own original qualities. It was a second immediate and worthwhile reason to be at Dizzy's that night.


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