‘No Going Back’ – Kruglov/Miller Kompania

kruglov_miller

LIFE IS FULL of the unexpected… and contemporary jazz reflects this so well through its cultural diversity and raw improvisational creativity. In that respect, it’s a pleasure to experience this multi-faceted big band/orchestral release from the Kruglov/Miller Kompania – No Going Back.

British pianist, composer and bandleader Vladimir Miller’s strong association with the musical life of Moscow, going back to the early ’90s, led to the establishment of the experimental, free-jazz Moscow Composers Orchestra amongst many, many other jazz/improvisational projects. This latest collaboration is with a member of that orchestra, Russian saxophonist Alexey Kruglov (whose albums Moscow and The Mighty Five have previously been reviewed here) and his Krugly Band. Dynamic and full-bodied, this big band (formed in 1999, personnel listed below) enthusiastically interpret, with Miller at the piano, these original compositions which are infused with world music and other influences, plus numerous, surprising declamations and interjections.

The sepia-toned aerosol cover art might suggest a waiting blank canvas, but does little to intimate this progressive, multicoloured, 70-minute phantasmagoria. Recorded in the Russian capital, here is scored and improvised jazz which demonstrates extraordinary breadth of style and a decidedly fervent attitude in its performance; and these five particularly expansive ‘movements’ constantly hold the attention through their frequent, unpredictable turns.

It’s a sensory voyage of discovery, so not too many spoilers in this review! But whilst opener Airport Plants might tease in conveying familiar big band swing and close horn-stabbing arrangements, it begins to reveal the energy and strong individuality of these players, especially George Gorbov’s supple clarinet soloing and Rost Kochetov’s blistering wah-wah-muted trumpet improvisations. Last Hour feels darkly cinematic, complete with Russian declamations and that most evocative of Middle-Eastern instruments, the duduk (played by Anton Kotikov); and it’s the sense of the unknown, plus rich through-composition, which adds so much to the experience.

Playful bassoon in Nick’s Waltz might suggest the storytelling of Prokofiev (particularly Peter and the Wolf) and, indeed, the big-band solidity and piano brilliance here is often interrupted with elicitations of music hall/fairground, with swooning double cow horn and reeds painting colourful images of their own. The assuredness of these players, who evidently thrive on the freedom that Miller’s compositions afford, is so impressive – and, across nineteen minutes, the contrapuntal beauty of Ivan (A Life in Several Parts), with overtones of Borodin, develops into episodes of reed-squawking, voice-chanting and delicate pools of quiet, as well as a big band stature reminiscent of Dave Holland. The superb invention in closing number Arguments, Considerations and Rage is almost beyond words as it waltzes, squabbles and blasts out the tension of its title – slick jazz which becomes cacophonous with distorted reed and brass squeals, exasperated scat… only to eventually be diffused by the stark innocence of a child’s laughter.

No Going Back may well be unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. Thoroughly addictive… theatrical… entertaining… and available in the UK (digital download only) from Eastov Records. замечательно!

 

Vladimir Miller piano, compositions, arrangements

‘Krugly Band’ Orchestra:
Alexey Kruglov alto sax, bassethorn, prepared alto sax, declamation, arrangements
Masha Kruglova voice
Olga Sorokina soprano sax, flute
Anton Kotikov tenor sax, alto flute, duduk, prepared tenor sax
George Gorbov baritone sax, clarinet
Rost Kochetov trumpet
Max Durov trumpet, flugelhorn
Anton Zakharov trumpet
Fedor Senchukov trombone
Maksim Piganov trombone
Andrey Savelichev trombone
Slava Keizerov trombone
Stas Cheremushkin tuba
Denis Shushkov double bass
Peter Ivshin drums, glockenspiel, percussion
with special guests:
Sergey Starostin voice, Russian folk wind instruments (tracks 2, 4)
Yury Yaremchuk soprano sax, bass clarinet (tracks 2, 4)
Alexander ‘Fagot’ Alexandrov bassoon (tracks, 3, 5)
Yury Parfenov trumpet (track 4)
Arkady ‘Freeman’ Kirichenko voice (track 5)

vladimirmiller.co.uk

Eastov Records – eastov 004 (digital, UK)
Artservice – art-321 (CD, Russia)
(2015)

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‘The Mighty Five’ – Alexey Kruglov / Jaak Sooäär Quartet

TheMightyFive

THE PRACTICE of extracting music from one context and artfully adapting it for another has long been a fascination. Church organists, for example, can be such masters of disguise, relishing the opportunity to befuddle their listeners with, normally, the most incongruous of selections. So, this quartet release of sparky arrangements and improvisations by Alexey Kruglov (saxophones) and Jaak Sooäär (electric guitar), based on celebrated Russian classical masterpieces, instantly grabbed the attention.

Saxophonist Alexey Kruglov is a rising, creative star on the Russian and international jazz scene (his 2014 ACT Music release, Moscow, with renowned German pianist Joachim Kühn, of particular note) and Estonian guitarist Jaak Soäär has, for many years, featured prominently in the pop and jazz culture of his homeland. Joining them are seasoned jazz musicians Mihkel Mälgand (bass) and Tanel Ruben (drums).

In a programme of Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Balakirev (the quartet sometimes include Cezar Cui – hence The Mighty Five), the players somehow retain the integrity of these familiar works whilst shifting them into an altogether different sphere – in turns, beautifully lyrical and punkily brazen. Yet, no matter how far they push the envelope, there is clearly a fundamental, underlying respect for and adherence to the originals.

The orchestral majesty of the first movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship) is, here, transformed by Kruglov’s alto into a luxurious, TV-theme-like sweep, with Sooäär’s guitar encouraging more energetic, improvised development – an altogether brilliant re-working. Polovtsian Dance (otherwise known as the Chorus of Polovtsian Girls from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor) is powered-up by crunchy rhythm guitar, its irregular metre paving the way for gutsy extemporisations. The first of the quartet’s interpretations from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an ExhibitionThe Old Castle – possesses a fine, bluesy swagger, thanks to the pliant double bass of Mihkel Mägland, Kruglov’s hard sax tone and Sooäär’s high-fretted wails; and, audaciously and raucously, Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumblebee is compressed into 75 seconds of intense pleasure, its wild, frenetic, group activity bordering on free jazz.

Mussorgsky’s stately The Great Gate of Kiev is fabulously fashioned with solid drumming, eloquent electric bass improv and the irrepressible scribbles and scrawls of Kruglov’s alto; then a Balakirev piano Nocturne is elegantly reimagined for jazz quartet, amidst hints of restlessness. Mussorgsky’s Baba-Yaga is well suited to the anarchic romp created here, including some wonderfully chattering soprano against a fast electric bass undercurrent, and Sooäär’s imaginative guitar/electronics are superb – a stand-out track, in fact. To close, Prince Igor’s Aria (Borodin’s emotive No Sleep, No Rest from Prince Igor) is sympathetically realised as extended chamber jazz, its many facets reflecting the shared invention throughout this extraordinary, rather special album.

Released on ArtBeat Music, The Mighty Five may be difficult to locate in the UK as a physical CD, but is available as a download – take a listen at iTunes or Amazon

 

Alexey Kruglov alto, soprano and baby saxophones, train whistle, shouts
Jaak Sooäär electric guitar, live electronics
Mihkel Mälgand double bass, electric bass
Tanel Ruben drums

ArtBeat Music – AB-CD-09-2014-074 (2014)

‘Moscow’: Duo Art – Joachim Kühn & Alexey Kruglov

Kuhn

SENSING THE ELECTRICITY between two jazz instrumentalists ‘in conversation’ can be both fascinating and revealing – and when musicians of the calibre of Joachim Kühn and Alexey Kruglov join forces, it’s a safe bet that a sensory display of fireworks is in the offing. Certainly, in the case of this new release, ‘Moscow’, it’s a pretty special coming together for the pianist and alto saxophonist as part of ACT’s expanding Duo Art series.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…


Joachim Kühn
piano
Alexey Kruglov alto saxophone

ACT – 9623-2 (2014)