Alexei Zoubov

Sometimes They Come Back
ITOGI, December 4, 2006
Evgeny Belzhelarsky Original in Russian, translated by
Sergei Zamascikov
Patriarch of the Soviet Jazz Alexei Zoubov gave a concert in Moscow
after 22-year absence.

Today no one is surprised by the legends visiting Moscow. However, exceptions do occur. What happened in the Galina Visnevskaya Opera Center was just that. Even Bill Evans himself, coming directly from New York, woouldn’t have arised such a tremendous interest. Alexei Zoubov - is one of the symbols of the Soviet jazz era. Many still remember those times: listening to the latest jazz tunes through relentless radio jamming, ignoring official pressure, striving to learn to play as they do “over there”, - many famous names and great reputations were created then. Zoubov, a talented physicist, was swamped by the jazz tsunami. This “tsunami” was newly discovered be-bop…New musical language. Even Americans sometimes had a hard time to imitate its creators Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, but some of our musicians managed to do this, breaking through the Iron Curtain, by just taking it from the air. Alexei Zoubov was one of these musicians. However, very soon, he discovered his own style, mixing swing and jazz rhythms with Oriental mugams and Russian folklore. These compositions were played in the 60-ies creating a lot of turmoil.

Now they were performed here at the Ostozhenka concert hall, such as for example, famous “Byliny-stariny”. They start as a folk tale, than the music explodes from within…as a “managed chaos”. The style of the other musician, Milcho Leviev, was very much attuned to this: a piano virtuoso, who also emigrated to the United States and surprised American audience with the complex Bulgarian musical structures. Zoubov/Leviev duo has a long history behind it…

…Zoubov has a unique style of playing: it is both soft and unpredictable, it is cat-like. Zoubov plays with the audience like cat playing with the mouse. He can quiet you down with the confession and suddenly break into a culmination, and than, immediately “hide its claws” switching into piano. In the “Gentle Lady” composition, one finds yet another different, Chopin-like stylistics. Zoubov sounds almost sentimental here. Leviev plays transparent, watercolor chords and, during the pauses, begins to play something that reminds Chopin’s nocturnes…

It goes without saying that the concert hall was jam packed. Everyone appreciate the significance of the event. One of the famous producers, Vartan Tonoyan, expressed his admiration in this short phrase: “30 years ago, I felt honored just to be able to carry this gentleman saxophone to the taxi.” Now I am honored that I could bring him back to his motherland”.

Club Review
Music Connection , January 27, 2007
Rejuvenation Project
La Ve Lee Jazz Club, Studio City
By Lisa Elaine Scott

ThePlayers: Alexei Zoubov, soprano and tenor saxophone; Brian Friedland, keyboards; Hamilton Price, Bass; Jens Kuross, drums.

Material: This group is headed by veteran saxophonist and composer Zoubov, who began his career in Stalinist Russia. Zoubov is a consummate risk-taker. While he doesn’t shy away from straight ahead jazz, he willingly incorporates elements of world music, Russian folk music, Middle Eastern music and contemporary chamber music into his compositions. This makes for an impressive amount of stylistic diversity.

Musicianship: All high-caliber musicians with extensive formal training, these players provide some inspired solo work. Keyboardist Friedland’s rapid runs are exhilarating. Kuross’ intriguing array of rhythm patterns and Price’s unyielding bass lines provide rich textures and colorful contours that seem nearly tangible. On saxophone, Zoubov masterfully moves from huge mournful swells to gently rippling arpeggios that change direction without notice.

Performance: In between each piece, the charismatic Zoubov related delightful anecdotes, which helped the audience understand the historical and social context in which these compositions were written. With fifty years of experience between the saxophonist and his 20-something bandmates, Zoubov could have easily pulled seniority and kept the spotlight to himself. Instead, he led gracefully, which allowed the other players a good deal of room for self-expression, and the resulting musical conversation was nothing short of soul stirring.

Summary: Zoubov’s goal was to bring together some first-rate, up-and-coming young jazz musicians to reinterpret and reinvigorate his expansive body of work. The result - the Rejuvenation Project - provides a phenomenal performance that will thrill everyone from the most ardent jazz fan to the uninitiated newcomer.