Dmitri Kolesnik at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola

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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.

Madison's Turkish cymbals added their own unique quasi-Caucasian flavor to the journey on the Russian Steppes. "Russian Caravan," shorn of its original Paul Chambers-like introduction, assumed a new and smooth life. Magnarelli's trumpet carried the theme in a glowing fashion. Kolesnik has frequently played with a saxophone as solo instrument, but the move to trumpet quartet provided an almost cinematic feel to the music. The trumpet's trills were echoed by Wosney at the piano.

Kolesnik announced the next two tracks together, perhaps to not cause a break in mood between the two numbers. They were to be "Five Corners," a tune from his Five Corners (Challenge, 2006) album with saxophonist Eric Alexander and trumpeters Jim Rotondi and, on two tracks, Alex Sipiagin (the band, with Sipiagin, toured Russia in 2007), and a poem to the Russian landscape of Kolesnik's childhood where, in summer in St Petersburg, the sun never sets, entitled "White Nights And Gray Days."

"Five Corners" saw a great solo from Kolesnik. There was much interplay between the piano and the drums, with the bass of Kolesnik there at every point. The tune ended with the trumpet and bass in unison, an excellent sound.

For "White Nights And Gray Days" there was a soft piano introduction. Magnarelly's trumpet joined the piano slowly and melodically. "We don't have white nights in New York," said Kolesnik at the end. "Music beautiful" was the comment of a Turkish woman in the back.

Kolesnik then introduced a tune entitled "Aniuta," written for his wife: "The tune is in 5/4," he said, "and she is five four in her heels." "Aniuta" is a very bright tune with a swinging, often chromatic, melody. At the piano, Wonsey threw in a reference to the final moments of the "Take The 'A" Train" theme, as Kolesnik's strong bass continued to unite and bind. Kolesnik's style frequently includes playing a couplet of supertonic and dominant notes to fix the key, then drifting easily into a soloing role, and then back. From a compositional viewpoint, this enables a strong structure in a long piece.

The final tune of the set was "Song For Kenny," by another Russian jazz musician and colleague of Kolesnik, the pianist Andre Kondakov.

Kolesnik's music has acquired an elegant sheen as he has continued playing in New York. The vibrancy of the music was very well communicated by this group, with Kolesnik 's woody bass so organically centered in the music. The musicians chosen for this gig were a very cohesive group. As Kolesnik says, each person brings their own thing to the music. With performances like this, Dmitri Kolesnik's tunes are taking a further step towards a place of some permanence in the jazz repertoire.

Selected Discography of Dmitri Kolesnik as Leader

Meeting Point, Quintessence (Challenge Records, 2009)

The Corners Five, Live At The Hermitage Theatre (Jazz Alliance, 2007)

The Corners Five, Five Corners (Challenge Records, 2006)

Dmitri Kolesnik, Blues For Dad (Boheme Music, 2001)

Photo Credits

Aniuta Kolesnik

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