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Two Konstantin Ionenko Releases on Fancy Music

Mark Sullivan By

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Two recent releases from the Russian Fancy Music label feature Ukrainian bassist Konstantin Ionenko (they also have drummer Pavel Galitsky in common). Ionenko holds down the low end with an electric bass guitar, but the group sound on these recordings is primarily acoustic, with a bass approach similar to what a double bassist would play—no slapping or popping here. If these albums are indicative of the general quality of Ukrainian jazz playing, there must be a deep bench.

Konstantin Ionenko Quintet
Deep Immersion
Fancy Music
2014

His first recording as a leader comes straight out of the Blue Note-era hard bop sound: two horns (alto saxophonist Dmitri Shlelein and trumpet/flugelhornist Dennis Adu) , piano (Pavel Litvinenko), bass (Ionenko) and drums (Pavel Galitsky). The opener "Yellow Greenwich" is reminiscent of Herbie Hancock records from the period. "Barracuda" puts the spotlight on alto saxophonist Shlelein, who begins the tune unaccompanied. When the band enters we're in The Jazz Messengers or Horace Silver swing territory. But then it shifts gears into a more downtempo feel, before returning to the head: Ionenko's compositions may have a traditional feel, but they're not predictable. The ballad "Devoted" finally features Ionenko as soloist, but it's a melodic solo showcasing melody over technique. Even on his own date he's more focused on the rhythm section than in taking a star turn. There's a moment during "Deep Dive" where the bass part employs harmonics in a way mainly associated with Jaco Pastorius, one of the few places it sounds "electric." That tune is also a showcase for Adu's trumpet and Litvinenko's piano. "Invisible" recalls Hancock again, and drummer Galitsky gets his own unaccompanied spotlight for the introduction—nice touch doing that on a ballad, instead of a big, bombastic drum solo.

Deep Tone Project
Flow
Fancy Music
2014

Deep Tone Project is a joint project with Ionenko and guitarist Alexandr Pavlov as co-leaders. The instrumentation of electric guitar, electric bass, tenor sax (Viktor Pavelko), and drums (Pavel Galitsky) might suggest fusion. But this is still an acoustic sound, with the stylistic focus shifting from Blue Note to something more contemporary, like ECM. Pavlov has a contemporary mainstream jazz guitar tone—no distortion or effects—calling someone like John Abercrombie to mind. He and Ionenko split the composition duties evenly between them. There are no tunes duplicated from the quintet album (which might have been interesting, but I can understand a desire to keep the two projects separate). Pavlov's sound is in clear focus during his unaccompanied introduction to his ballad "Blue." Ionenko takes a long solo on his "Odd Fellow," the only instance on both recordings where he really shows off his chops. Although this is a more contemporary sound than the Quintet album, the band shows off their swing credentials on Pavlov's "Recent Sense." Ionenko's ballad "Untitled" gives plenty of space for lyrical contributions from Pavelko's tenor and Pavlov's guitar. The album closes on a calm note, with the atmospheric title tune.

Tracks and Personnel

Deep Immersion

Tracks: Yellow Greenwich; Barracuda; Devoted; Deep Dive; Sect; Invisible; Megapolis Distress (CFS).

Personnel: Dmitri Shlelein: alto saxophone; Dennis Adu: trumpet, flugelhorn; Pavel Litvinenko: piano; Konstantin Ionenko: bass; Pavel Galitsky: drums.

Flow

Tracks: Landscape; Odd Fellow; Blue; Recent Sense; Fragments; Untitled; Air Shortage; Flow.

Personnel: Viktor Pavelko: tenor saxophone; Alexandr Pavlov: guitar; Konstantin Ionenko: bass; Pavel Galitsky: drums.

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