It’s been quite some time since Russian trumpeter Valery Ponomarev defected from his native land in order to play jazz in America. Landing a gig with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers almost immediately, Ponomarev has gone on to practice the jazz tradition while being documented on a distinguished series of dates for the Reservoir label. Clearly, the affection that Ponomarev has for Blakey is still palpable owing to the title of his latest endeavor. The Messenger is indeed hard bop in the grand style and yet that tart Russian tinge that distinguishes the trumpeter’s sound is ever present, giving his originals a worldly stance all their own.
Ponomarev definitely could not ask for better company. Tenor saxophonist Michael Karn has his own individualized line of attack, more in tune with mainstream guys like Buddy Tate and Bud Freeman than Coltrane or Rollins. Pianist Sid Simmons is one of Philadelphia’s finest and drummer Jimmy Cobb really needs no introduction at all. With a concise set of diverse tunes and Jim Anderson’s crisp recorded sound, you end up with 50 minutes of high octane playing that not only treads new ground but also spreads the message of the elders.
Track Listing: Driving To a Gig II, Messenger From Russia, Long Distance Relationship, Escape From Gorki Park, Dark Alley, Star Dust, Mirage
Personnel: Valery Ponomarev (trumpet), Michael Karn (tenor saxophone), Sid Simmons (piano), Martin Zenker (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums)
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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