Tchaikovsky in Jazz: The Seasons (LP)
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Cat No: MELLP0033
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 30th June 2014
ArtistsSergei Zhilin Trio
Jazz versions of classical opuses date back to the 1930s. A piece titled 'Bach Goes to Town' recorded by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra and arranged by Alec Templeton, one of the first attempts of interaction between jazz playing and Bach’s style, entered the jazz annals.
In Russia, Leonid Utyosov’s orchestra not unsuccessfully worked with themes by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. The big bands of Stan Kenton and Woody Herman sometimes used themes from classical pieces in their compositions as well. In the 1950s and 1960s, those trends found development in the so-called baroque jazz. Nevertheless, by the end of the 20th century, interaction between jazz idioms and the language of academic music became in most cases a sufficiently trite trick and almost lost the flavour of novelty.
However, Sergei Zhilin’s trio’s new work Tchaikovsky in Jazz, The Seasons (reworked by Yuri Markin) has shown that the idea of "jazzifying" classical compositions is not just alive, but also at times able to deliver surprising results.
Firstly, the choice of pieces proved to be absolutely accurate. Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons belongs to the repertoire of senior grades of children, music schools and primary courses of music colleges. The numbers are hackneyed, habitual and even somewhat simple for advanced musicians. But suddenly these pieces expose a musical depth and a capability of musical development which would be even hard to imagine.
Secondly, when jazz piano mainstream turns to chamber, if not salon music of the 19th century, it gets creative impetus so powerful that the seemingly typical texture and harmonic techniques suddenly work in a new fashion.
Everything new and unusual about this project comes as if within the performed pieces. New harmonization of Tchaikovsky’s themes becomes possible inside them. It is not done because of the standard jazz cords, but thanks to a harmonic language of late romanticism and music of the 20th century enriched with jazz tones.
It is amazing how easily and naturally the pieces from The Seasons composed in the last third of the 19th century absorb the styles of later periods – jazz and non-jazz ones, including modern pop and rock music (Troika).
It is also interesting how these themes evolve musically, no matter if one anticipates it or not (a wonderful fugato in Barcarolle). Timbre surprises also happen – such as the melody of Barcarolle with the bass guitar.
Side A [23.51]
1. December. Christmastide
2. January. At the Fireside
3. June. Barcarolle
4. March. Song of the Lark
Side B [21.56]
1. October. Autumn Song
2. April. Snowdrop
3. February. Carnival
4. November. Troika
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