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Take Five With Boris Kozlov


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Meet Boris Kozlov:

Currently serving as a bassist, arranger and Musical Director for the Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty and The Orchestra, as well as leading his own projects, he has also been a first-call bassist for such important jazz acts as Michael Brecker, John Blake, Ray Barretto's New World Spirit, Lew Tabackin, David Kikoski, Alex Sipiagin, Jean-Michel Pilc, and many others.

Boris Kozlov was born in Moscow,USSR on December 5, 1967. Having a chance to go to Children's Music School to study piano for seven years, he fell in love with the bass and won the Gnesin Music Academy competition to enter college at the age of 15, on electric bass guitar.

While being influenced by rock and classical music, he took interest in jazz at 17, and went on to study acoustic bass with notable bassist Anatoly Sobolev. Upon graduation in 1987 with Diploma of Honor at the age of 19, he served mandatory two years in the Soviet Army, where he had to play tuba and other brass instruments besides basses in the military band.

Once out of the Army, he was hired by the State owned Melodia Studio Ensemble in 1989, and proceeded to record more than 40 albums with them as well as many other Soviet jazz artists. At the same time, he continued his studies at The State Academy of Music. At the first USSR Competition of Jazz Soloists in 1990, he won The Grand Prix, as well as a special prize for his original composition. After winning the first spot in Young Musician category in USSR Jazz Journal in 1991, he decided to move to New York.

The self-study continued in a specific NY jazz environment, where he was eventually hired by Hassan Williams and Terry Gibbs/Buddy DeFranco Band, and later by: saxophonists Bobby Watson, Bob Berg, Benny Golson, James Moody, Ronnie Cuber, John Stubblefield, Ravi Coltrane, Seamus Blake, Donny McCaslin; trumpeters Dizzy Reece, Philip Harper, Brian Lynch (Grammy, 2007), Alex Sipiagin, Ray Vega; pianists Eddie Palmieri, Walter Bishop, Jr. Jr., Michel Petrucciani, Arturo O'Farrill, Michel Legrand, Stanley Cowell, Jon Ballantyne, George Colligan, Orrin Evans, Edward Simon, Helen Sung, Joey Calderazzo; vibraphonists Joe Locke, Bill Ware; guitarists Mark Whitfield, David Gilmore, Adam Rogers, Jack Wilkins, Ximo Tebar; drummers Tommy Campbell, Victor Jones, Marlon Simon, Victor Lewis, Johnathan Blake, Jeff Tain Watts, Ali Jackson Jr., Antonio Sanchez; vocalists Jay McGovern, Urszula Dudziak, Monday Michiru; trombonists Conrad Herwig, Robin Eubanks, Andy Hunter; trombonist/vocalist Frank Lacy's Experience and the funk/jazz, band NewHypeJazz

After sharing a stage with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Cobb, Maceo Parker, Jimmy Smith, Henry Butler, Toots Thielemans and Clark Terry on multiple occasions, and playing on nine Grammy-nominated albums, plus the Grammy-winning Simpatico—in addition to the other 160 albums, having few of his scores published—Boris continues to serve as Musical Director for all of the Mingus Dynasty projects, touring and recording extensively with multitude of different bands, as well as doing international work with his own Malfunction Alibi. He also performs solo bass and teaches master classes around the world following the release of his acoustic solo album, Double Standard.


Bass, bass guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?

Anatoly Sobolev on bass, all the musicians I've played with.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I decided not to be a train engineer.

Your sound and approach to music:

I like when it feels good and when one can hear a story, conversational playing is most appealing to me.

Your teaching approach:

Create directions and not pure instructions for the student.

Your dream band:

I've been lucky to work with a lot of dream bands, but I would love to play with (not necessarily in order, or with all of them together): Jack DeJohnette, Zakir Hussain, Anthony Jackson, Stevie Wonder.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

In the middle of "Naima," which I was playing without an amp, my bridge fell off the bass because of the slippery plastic strings I used and me playing too hard. After two choruses, I was able to put it back up and tune up to that Eb pedal. All in front of the audience at St Marks bar in the East Village in 1993.

Favorite venue:

Jazz Standard, NYC.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

The one that's coming soon, because I hope it's gonna be better than the other ones.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Leningrad Dixieland, Melodia 1976

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Not for me to say.

Did you know...

...that I used to be a pianist and still see the keys when improvising.

Albums you are listening to now:

Various, Songs Of The People Of Russia (CDM);
Duke Ellington/Ray Brown, This One's for Blanton (Pablo);
Steve Coleman/Dave Holland, Phase Dance (DIW).

Desert Island picks:

Weather Report, Domino Theory (Columbia);
Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah-Um (Columbia);
Ornette Coleman, In All Languages (Polydor);
Miles Davis, Miles Smiles (Columbia);
Krysztof Penderecki, Symphony #2 (Melodia).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

We need help.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Help keeping the clubs around, bringing young audiences in, asking for some form of state support. On the musical front, being yourself and not playing something the way somebody might want you to play.

What is in the near future?

Japan tour with my band, Malfunction Alibi, from Nov 18-29, 2010; tour with Mingus Dynasty in South America beginning of December.

By Day:

A dad.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Something to do with transport and travel infrastructure.

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