The Dmitri Kolesnik Trio at Cleopatra's Needle, NYC

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Dimitri Kolesnik with John Hart and Jimmy Madison
Cleopatra's Needle
New York, New York
October 2, 2008

It was at times a case of "East meets Wes" when famed guitarist John Hart and esteemed New York drummer Jimmy Madison played in a trio setting with Russian bassist Dmitri Kolesnik at top New York jazz restaurant Cleopatra's Needle. Also making an appearance, on the restaurant's televisions, was the Vice-Presidential debate. On a break, Madison fired some well-aimed rim- shots at some of the subtitled comments floating across the screen with the sound down.

But the sound was well up when I walked in at 8.30 pm, to be greeted by the Trio playing an interesting arrangement (by Hart) of The Beatles' "Michelle, with the guitarist playing a descending sequence, fast and reminiscent of George Benson. The next track was Kolesnik's interesting "Russian Caravan," his musical picture of Russian immigrants travelling to the United States throughout history. During his solo, Hart blended a bit of Django Reinhardt with suggestions of John Scofield. (He said later that he likes Scofield, Al DiMeola, John Abercrombie and Wes Montgomery. In fact, some great Wes moments cropped up during the gig.)

The next number was the 1940s ballad championed (and recorded) by Charlie Haden—"Haunted Heart," with Hart's slow playing unmistakably evoking Montgomery. Kolesnik played cool bass in a stand-out solo section as Montgomery-like chords from Hart carried the set to the set's fourth tune, the Brazilian "Triste". The effect was swirling sound, Hart's long fingers practically replicating the insistent melody figure from "Spill The Wine" (the funk classic from Eric Burdon and War, most recently on the soundtrack to Boogie Nights). The piece had a snappy Latin beat.

Towards the end of Jobim's "Triste," Madison struck his historic Zjildjian '40s big-band cymbal in a manner not unlike the mysterious rustles on The Door's "The End." He has two cymbals that he likes in particular—a Zjildjian "K" and an "A" which he calls "my babies." The K had an exotic Turkish sound (Zjildjian are of course the famous Turkish cymbal makers): Madison said "they (sound) dark." Madison formerly played drums with, amongst others, singer James Brown (recording two Brown Top 40 singles in the 1970s) and a with guitarist- vocalist George Benson.

The next track was a riff-based tune on which Kolesnik concentrated on the upper part of the bass' top string in his sol, while Madison provided some of his signature "rat-tat-a-tat" stick hits to the kit.

During the break, Kolesnik outlined his recent recording activity, including an album about twelve months ago "that sounds very nice," featuring some of the tunes played in the set just ended, such as "Michelle," Haunted Heart" and "Russian Caravan." Kolesnik added that he's shopping for a label to release and/or distribute it. The tunes include a mixture of compositions by Kolesnik and Hart, along with the standards. "It's different but I love this ... So much fun," says Kolesnik. The trio is playing another gig at Somers Library in Westchester, New York later in October.

Kolesnik confided that he recently played an interesting gig with renowned singer Mark Murphy (Down Beat's Reader Poll winner as Best Male Vocalist in 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2001, and a six-time Grammy nominee in the category of "Beat Jazz Vocal Performance"). Murphy's family was celebrating the union of the family—"His family is very musical," added Kolesnik—at Fulton, New Jersey. Beside Kolesnik, the trio accompanying Murphy comprised Joshua Wolfe (piano) and Will Terell (drums). In January 2008, Kolesnik was also in the large ensemble backing up Murphy for the vocalist's week-long engagement at Birdland.

Two weeks before the Needlepoint performance Kolesnik recorded his third quintet album, a joint project shared with his regular New York colleagues, Eric Alexander (tenor), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Andrei Kondakov (piano), and Lenny White (drums), formerly known collectively as The Corners Five but now renamed as Meeting Point. Compositions are by all the band members. The bassist related that the album was done in two six-hour sessions and has just been mixed (by Kolesnik and Tom Swift, who worked with Miles Davis in the 1980s). Produced by Todd Barkan of Jazz At Lincoln Center, the project is as yet unnamed. It will be Kolesnik's fourth official album, most likely released by the Holland-based Challenge label which, according to the bassist, produces albums that have their "own look," as "Blue Note did," with distinctive designs still treasured by collectors. The label has "very good music," he says, citing pianist Cedar Walton as an example.


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