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