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Boris Kozlov: First Things First

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Boris Kozlov: First Things First
Bass players don't always get the recognition they deserve. While it's easy to see their importance in the rhythm section, they aren't always the first instrument that comes to mind when it comes to the spotlight. There are exceptions, of course, and Boris Kozlov definitely fits into this category. His Posi-Tone debut, First Things First, highlights his skills not only as a player, but also as a composer and bandleader as well.

Anyone familiar with the Posi-Tone catalog will probably be familiar with Kozlov's work. He's appeared on several of the label's releases and has become part of a close-knit unit featuring Behn Gillece on vibes, Art Hirahara on piano and organ, and Rudy Royston on drums. This core group recorded several excellent Posi-Tone releases, including Art Hirahara's Open Sky (2021) and Behn Gillece's Still Doing Our Thing (2021). First Things First brings them together again with Kozlov's friend, Donny McCaslin, on saxophone and flute.

First Things First covers a lot of diverse musical territory, ranging from straight-ahead to funk, fusion, and even free form. There are even a few nods to classical music as well. Kozlov also acknowledges some of his major influences, such as Charles Mingus and Igor Stravinsky. There is even an excellent cover of the Mingus composition "Eclipse." Even with the diverse styles and influences, the album doesn't feel disjointed at any time.

While many of the compositions are Koslov originals, he also includes material written by other members of the band. McCaslin's "Second Line Sally," for example, serves up a funky New Orleans-influenced groove that also ventures into some tasty fusion segments, somewhat reminiscent of Weather Report. Koslov was introduced to this song in the early 2000s, and he always dreamed of recording it with an electric bass alongside a Hammond B3 organ. He describes this as a dream come true, and Hirahara delivers some excellent organ work on this track.

Along with funk and fusion, Koslov also shows classical influences in the compositions. This is probably most evident in "I. S. Adventure," which is a tribute to Igor Stravinsky, who is, as Kozlov points out, a major inspiration for many jazz musicians. Rather than being a composition that tries to sound like "The Rite of Spring" or something similar, this piece builds from certain Stravinsky intervals to create a hard-driving canvas for improvisation, and Hirahara and McCaslin play some excellent solos. However, the real standout is Royston's performance on drums.

"Once A Fog In Babylon" has a somewhat similar touch. Here Koslov goes back to his Russian roots by incorporating some traditional melodies he heard during his university days. One of his professors had a collection of field recordings of Russian folk music that dated back over a century. This song incorporates some of these traditional sounds and transforms them into a unique modern jazz piece.

All of these musicians clearly share a unique bond, and it comes across in their music. This album stems from a project Posi-Tone conceived during the pandemic lockdown when musicians were facing challenges since playing options were limited. Producer Marc Free wanted to keep the music going, so he recruited this core band to record their own solo outings. Free convinced Koslov to take on this project, and it is a good thing he agreed because First Things First is an album that deserves recognition.

Track Listing

Page One; Flow; The More Things Change; I.S. Adventure; Aftermath; Second Line Sally; Viscous; Mind Palace; Warm Sand; Once A Fog In Babylon; Eclipse.

Personnel

Boris Kozlov: bass; Donny McCaslin: saxophone, tenor; Art Hirahara: piano; Behn Gillece: vibraphone; Rudy Royston: drums.

Album information

Title: First Things First | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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