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Take Five with Evgeny Lebedev of LRK Trio

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Meet Evgeny Lebedev of LRK Trio

Billboard award winner and laureate of numerous jazz contests, Evgeny Lebedev has quickly established himself as one of the brightest jazz musicians of his generation. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston he is a winner of the international jazz competition in Belgium, prize-winner of the Bösendorfer Jazz Piano Competition (Switzerland) and the Made In New York Jazz Competition (USA). Evgeny performed at the largest jazz festivals in the world. Among those with whom Lebedev has played are Jack DeJohnette, Terri Lyne Carrington, Lenny White, Kenwood Dennard, Marcus Miller, Randy Brecker, David Sanchez, Joe Lovano, George Garzone, David Fiuczynski and others. In 2021 Evgeny Lebedev became the first among jazz pianists to become a Yamaha Artist in Russia.

Instruments:

My first instrument was the accordion, which I picked up at the age of seven after hearing my father play it, but when I turned 15 I switched to the piano when I fell in love with jazz.

Teachers and/or influences?

I started learning jazz with one of the best jazz instructors in Moscow, Evgeny Grechishev, then with Igor Bril. After acceptance to Berklee College Of Music, I have been fortunate to study jazz more deeply with Hal Crook, Joe Lovano, Danilo Pérez and Dave Samuels. I would say Hal Crook had the biggest influence on me, totally changing my mind and my way of thinking. Great person, educator and musician.

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

When I heard my father playing accordion at home. I didn't want to become a musician yet, but I have realized, that music is the shortest way to happiness and I need that shortcut.

I finally decided to be a musician when I first saw jazz players jamming on blues. I was absolutely amazed at how people can make music on the spot improvising and having pure fun. It was fascinating to see and hear the beauty of the moment «here and now». It made me sure that I desire to play this music for the rest of my life.

Your sound and approach to music.

Since I came to jazz from folk and European classical music, I guess it became my approach to music. When I was studying jazz piano at Russian Academy Of Music, my teacher Igor Bril always reminded me how important it is to study the music of Bach, Chopin and other great classical composers. I'm really grateful to him, cause it significantly improved my sound, technique and overall way of thinking.

Your teaching approach

It is very important to inspire students and help them to believe in themselves. I remember studying with Joe Lovano and he had never made a «wall» between students and himself, always playing with us, students. Not too much talking, mostly playing, but this was super inspiring. Hal Crook was more like a "jazz doctor," always having the right medicine to fix certain difficulties students went through. So in my teaching approach at Igor Butman's Jazz Academy in Moscow I'm trying to combine those two methods. Hopefully succesfully.

Your dream band

I'm super happy that I play in my dream band right now. LRK Trio which includes Anton Revnyuk on bass and Ignat Kravtsov on drums. These guys are just incredible musicians and human beings. I've been fortunate to play with some of the best living jazz musicians like Jack DeJohnette, Marcus Miller, Terri Lyne Carrington. That was an amazing experience, but I stopped thinking about my dream band. Thank God, I really play in a dream band now!

Favorite venue

There are several nice jazz clubs in Moscow and I love playing in three of them a lot! I love Esse Jazz Club for its cozy atmosphere, sound, and their Yamaha grand piano, because I'm big fan of Yamaha pianos. Kozlov club is bigger and has more stages than Esse has with a totally different music vibe and audience which I appreciate a lot as well. Igor Butman's Club is another story and it is always great to play there. So there are three main venues I love playing in.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

My personal favorite is LRK Trio Concert at Vdnh Cosmos (live) [featuring Opensound Orchestra] First of all because it is a live recording and has the moment "here and now," captured, without strong postproduction which can be done on studio albums. We played with an amazing string orchestra Opensound—they sounded just fabulous. This kind of music I've been hearing in my head for a long time, which is a combination of compositional concepts, based on Eastern European classical traditions and spontaneous improvisations, which this album is full of. Even classical players are improvising on this one. You can check out our original composition "Through The Winter" with an amazing improvised violin cadenza by Andrey Rukhadze.

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

Hopefully, at least I'm keeping traditions, cause my belief—If you don't appreciate the past, you will not have a future. Then we will see where it will go.

The first jazz album I bought was:

Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's World. This album shocked me. First of all, Hancock's interpretation of Ravel's Concerto with lots of improvisation. Second shock was "Summertime," which was not my favorite tune, but it became my favorite because of this amazing version featuring Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder. I listened to it many times, but realized just recently that on this version of "Summertime" there are no drums, but I keep hearing them. So rhythmical and relaxed these masters sound.

Music you are listening to now:

I have just discovered music of Dori Caymmi and I'm listening to his album Brasilian Serenata (1988) right now. Shame on me I didn't know that artist. What a fabulous composer. Perfect mix of comfortable, almost easy listening and adventurous music. Great melodies combined with lush harmonies, and orchestral integrations. I have a feeling that this album inspired Pat Metheny's music, (which I really love) a lot.

Desert Island picks:

Svyatoslav Richter: The Well Tempered Clavier
Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden: Last Dance
Herbie Hancock: Sunlight
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Ella & Louis

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

Get inspiration from the best jazz musicians of the past. Like Erroll Garner, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald. They had lots of love, easyness and deepness at the same time in their music. It doesn't mean that we have to keep playing standards only, but we definitely will need to keep this energy going, so jazz will be not music for musicians only.

What is in the near future?

We are in the process of recording LRK Trio's album with a big symphony orchestra. Hopefully, we will finish it soon.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

To recognize a pianist in the front row looking at me.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No.2"

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

"Inner Urge" by Joe Henderson

By Day:

During the day I am a father. Which is a real job if you take it seriously. Also teaching at Igor Butman's Jazz Academy is another important day job. When I lived in New York I had some very inspirational day jobs as well. Working at a nursing home as a Music Therapist taught me a lot. What exactly I can't really describe in a few words. Playing for ballet classes was great. Working as an organist at church was absolutely amazing.

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

Not being a jazz musician is my nightmare.

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

With Jesus Christ.

If I could go back in time and relive an experience, what would it be?

I would say "Thank you" to people I can't thank now and apologize to people I can't apologize to now.

What's the song or piece of music you wish you could hear again for the first time?

Pat Metheny's "Have You Heard?"

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