Michael Gotz & Farko Dosumov: The Road to Jazzuka

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The road to Jazzukha has been a long one, and has been peppered along the way with missed connections, Russian cab drivers, car bombings, piles of paperwork, an African dancer and a country band. These are just to name a few.
By Katy Bourne

Farko Rustamovich Dosumov had no plans to go to the United States. The then 18 year-old was living in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, going to college and playing bass in rock bands. The eventual goal was to move to Moscow with his identical twin brother, Fedor, and to form a band. When a musician friend suggested that Dosumov buy a lottery ticket for a green card to the United States, he did so on a fluke. He promptly forgot about it. About this time, Dosumov and another musician visited an apartment of a friend for the purpose of getting a blown amp fixed. Their friend was not home, but the musician with Dosumov asked if he wanted to "meet a really strange guy", who lived in the same apartment building. The really strange guy turned out to be the bassist, Sergey Gilev, a respected member of the Uzbek jazz scene. That afternoon, Giley showed jazz videos to the two young musicians. It was Dosumov's first exposure to the likes of Stanley Jordon and Miles Davis. Dosumov soon began studying and playing regularly with Giley. Six months later, while Dosumov was watching television, a package arrived in the mail. Dosumov handed the package to his father, not even checking to see whom it was addressed to. His father returned to the room and handed him back the package. "It's for you", he said. Dosumov looked at the package and in a moment he knew. His life was about to change forever.

It would be two years before Dosumov would arrive in the United States. After initial notification of his winning, it was an-other 6 months before Dosumov received the massive packet of requisite applications, forms and other documents he would need to complete before leaving. After turning in the first round of paperwork, there was another period of waiting. Dosumov had to travel to Moscow for an interview at the United States Embassy. This interview, Dosumov happily recalls, was initially scheduled for March 8, which was International Women's Day, a European holiday. Because all government offices were closed, his inter-view was rescheduled for the following day. After the interview, there was still more paperwork to complete and process, and Dosumov returned to Tashkent to do so. One day, while Dosumov was running errands in Tashkent, a series of car bombs went off. One of the buildings he had frequented for assistance in processing his paperwork was heavily damaged. Dosumov made his way home that day despite the horror and the mayhem, but he had the troubling thought that with this new wave of unrest and violence, there was no way he would be leaving Uzbekistan anytime soon. Fate would have it differently, however, and three months later, Dosumov was on a plane to the United States. This was 1999.

Meanwhile, 6259 miles away in Seattle, Washington, Michael Gotz was immersed in songwriting and recording. He was fascinated with the emerging trend of Internet music. Gotz was recording and mixing his original compositions and then posting them on the now defunct MP3.com. He tracked his songs regularly, seeing where they were on the charts and constantly finding new and better ways to enhance the sound and character of the music. Before diving into Internet music, Gotz had long been a fixture in the Seattle music scene, playing guitar in such notable groups as Passages, 381, The Jazz Police, The Northwest Girl's Choir and the popular reggae band, The Groove. He'd also played piano in The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. In addition, Gotz spent time studying with many respected musicians, including Howard Roberts, Gary Peacock and Jerome Gray. His Internet period was somewhat solitary but productive. Six of Gotz's songs went to number one in the categories of jazz, jazz-fusion and instrumental rock. The tune Solid Ground was number one in the jazz category, charting above John Scofield and Diana Krall. The same tune went to number 35 overall. This was a prolific period for Gotz, and aside from the occasional pick-up gig with a country band, composing and recording were his main focus.

Dosumov had the names and phone numbers for two family friends in the Unites States, one in New York City and the other in Seattle, Washington. Dosumov arrived in New York City with the understanding that someone would be meeting him at the airport that evening. Nobody came. Speaking very little English and completely unaccustomed to all things American, Dosumov bravely made his way to Grand Central Station and took a train to the suburb of his host family in Harrison, New York. When his contacts still didn't meet him at the station in Harrison, Dosumov sat on a bench, considering his options. Eventually his friends arrived and were surprised that Dosumov had actually made it. Dosumov stayed in New York state for only a brief period. He worked at a job in Mamaroneck and then moved to Brooklyn, where he hooked up with other musicians. After failing to secure permanent housing, Dosumov heeded the urgings of his parents to make a move to Seattle, which in their view was a safer and more livable city.

Dosumov arrived in Seattle with his bass, three hundred dollars, an address and a phone number. He immediately called the phone number of his Seattle friend, but there was no answer. He then boarded an airport shuttle service, address in hand, and headed towards Seattle, presumably to lodging and com-fort. The shuttle driver delivered all the other passengers first. With only two passengers left, Dosumov and a lady from Bellevue, the driver informed Dosumov that the address he had provided did not exist. The Bellevue passenger invited Dosumov and the driver into her home so Dosumov could try calling his friend again. Dosumov recalls his .rst impression upon entering the woman's lavish home. "It was a big house in a quiet neighborhood. There were lots of trees and bushes. It was like something from a TV soap opera, like Santa Barbara." After several attempts, there was still no answer at his friend's number. The shuttle driver returned Dosumov back to the airport and didn't charge him for the ride. Dosumov was struck by the kindness of the shuttle driver and the lady in Bellevue. Back at Sea-Tac, Dosumov stored his bass and belongings, keeping with him only his documentation and a pack of cigarettes. As he sat on a bench at the airport, Dosumov felt optimistic; He had his smokes, and his future was wide open. He made a plan to sleep on a bench at Sea-Tac and to try again the next day to make his way into the strange new city. A security guard approached Dosumov, initially informing him that he could not sleep inside the airport. When Dosumov explained his predicament, the guard softened and gave his OK. However, a few minutes later, he returned with a Russian cab driver, who took Dosumov back to the of.ces of his cab company, where Dosumov slept on a couch for the night. More kindness.

The next day, Dosumov landed in the University District with $300.00 in his pocket. He rented a room in a boarding house for $280.00. The boarding house was rundown and full of various and sundry characters, many broke and down on their luck. It was quite different than the home of the lady from Bellevue, and the contrast was not lost on Dosumov. He shared a room with two other people. He quickly got a job in a restaurant and started playing with El Faba, a band he found through a local newspaper. During this period, he became deeply homesick and paid a visit to the U.S. Embassy to see what he would need to do to bring his twin brother, Fedor, to the United States. He was told it would be five years before he could apply for citizenship, thus enabling him to facilitate his twin's move to Seattle. Dosumov had been in Seattle only one month.

Over the next several months, Dosumov's survival skills would serve him well. He moved into a much-improved living situation, got a better-paying job and began studying at Cornish College of the Arts, where he met Seattle bassist, Chuck Deardorf. In addition to attending classes at Cornish, Dosumov studied privately with Deardorf. Both situations enabled him to enhance his bass chops, electric and acoustic, and also deepened his passion and understanding of jazz. Through Cornish, Dosumov met Paul Rucker and played on Rucker's recording, History of an Apology. He also recorded with the Ken Chan Trio during this period. It was also during this time that Deardorf introduced Dosumov to the guitarist, Danny Godinez, with whom Dosumov developed an instantaneous rap-port. One afternoon, while Dosumov was practicing in a Cornish rehearsal room with Deardorf, Godinez came in and asked Dosumov to join him on an Alaskan tour with his band. Dosumov was immediately at a crossroads. Should he continue his studies at Cornish or should he follow what had always been his dream, to tour with a working band? He chose the dream.

Dosumov spent three years with the Danny Godinez band, touring extensively in the United States. It was an exciting period of growth. Dosumov saw the United States, gained command of the English language and most important, received valuable and hands-on experience work-ing as a professional musician. Dosumov enjoyed playing Godinez's pop fusion, however, the jazz bug still pulled inside of him. Gotz, meanwhile, had emerged from his Internet pursuits, to start jamming with other musicians. He attended jam sessions at Owl & Thistle and also held sessions at his home, attended by Seattle musicians such as Isaac Marshall, Kevin Cook and Norm Baltzo. At one of the gigs with the country band, the bassist asked Gotz if he'd heard of this "Russian kid that plays bass". Weeks later, when Kevin Cook asked to bring Dosumov to a session at Gotz's home in Fremont, Gotz was more than happy to oblige. The connection between Gotz and Dosumov was immediate and profound. They began playing and recording together right away. Dosumov continued briefly with the Danny Godinez Band but eventually quit to pursue jazz full-time. He moved in with Gotz and thus marked an important milepost on the road to Jazzukha.

The music of Jazzukha has been defined as "ethnic-flavored world jazz", "deep world groove" and "music that draw from danceable pop as well as from jazz, funk and world" in.uences. The truth of the matter is that the definition is fluid as the music continues to evolve. The group was initially called "Tashkent". However, Dosumov felt that this moniker was misleading and put too much of an onus on the band to perform traditional Uzbekistani folk music. Thus, the name was changed to "Jazzukha". While Gotz and Dosumov are the core of the band, several musicians have contributed to the band's evolution. Among them are Greg Nickel (drums), Jim Coile (sax), Jonathan Cuena (trombone), Steve Peterson (drums) , Todd Johnson (drums) and Etienne Cakpo (vocals and percussion). Particularly notable is Cakpo, a professional dancer, choreographer and percussionist from Benin, West Africa. He is also the head of the Gansango Music and Dance Company. It was Cakpo's unique vocal and percussive style that became the defining element of the band's enduring ethnic sound.

The pairing of Dosumov and Gotz has sometimes been likened to Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan. A more accurate comparison might be Rumi and Shams. The two possess an unrelenting optimism and a belief that people "at their core, are magnicent". They share a similar musical aesthetic and an uncanny intuitive connection, which is particularly evident in their highly charged, live performances. Gotz is struck by Dosumov's sense of groove, time and commitment as well as his amazing bass solos. Of Dosumov, Gotz says, "There is something deeper behind the note. Music is a vehicle to express something deeper." Dosumov returns the admiration for Gotz, his "keyboard sounds" and of course, "the two-handed stuff ". Gotz and Dosumov regularly alternate the bass lines, enabling bass to solo over keyboard and visa versa. When looping is added in, the possibilities are infinite.

Gotz and Dosumov have recently done a major upgrade on their recording studio and are busy at work recording their new and as yet untitled CD. In addition to Gotz and Dosumov, the band presently consists of Denali Williams on drums and Steve Romalio on steel pan. The new recordings maintain the African influences while moving towards a sound like "Weather Report with steel pan." The band will wrap up recording by the end of the month and hope to sign with a label, get a distribution deal and tour the world. In addition to recording, the band is working with visual artist, Dianna Shyne, to present a live video montage at their performances. Through a piano-style keyboard and a laptop, Shynne is able to manipulate images in response to what is happening in the music. The band has been performing with Shyne for about 7 months, and the project has been very well received. Earlier this year, Dosumov received his U.S. citizenship.

When asked once what "Jazzukha" meant, Dosumov said, "It's when you take jazz and go like that" and then made a gesture as if shooting a rubber band through the air.

Another time, Dosumov defined Jazzukha as "When you're walking down the street with a friend and you go by this club and you hear this cool stuff, this groove, and you look in the window. That's Jazzukha." The definition of Jazzukha, quite simply, is different on any given day, but that seems right for what is indeed a lifelong, "constantly growing musical experiment." One thing is for certain; The road to Jazzukha is far from over.


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