Moscow JJA Awards: Russian JazzEars, Swiss horns, Asian melodies

Moscow JJA Awards: Russian JazzEars, Swiss horns, Asian melodies

by Cyril Moshkow
copyright © 2001 Cyril Moshkow

On May 31, the Moscow Jazz Journalists Association presented the JazzEar Awards, Russia's only professional jazz awards for last four years. This year the site of the ceremony has been changed - from luxurious Nostalgie Club in downtown Moscow JazzEar has moved to Le Club, Russian capital's largest jazz venue located inside the legendary Taganka Theater. The number of the awards' categories increased, reaching nine (instead of seven in past three years):

Musician of the Year: Arkady Shilkloper (for third year in a row). Shilkloper, 43, is perhaps one of the best French horn improvisers in the world and a innovative explorer of even more unusual instruments like alphorn, a 10-feet-long Swiss wooden pipe, on which he gained a marvelous level of mastery in last three years (even being awarded a brand new instrument by Swiss government "for spreading the image of a Swiss instrument worldwide"). In 2000, Shilkloper released an innovative all-horn solo album "Pilatus" (Boheme Music) and toured Europe with Austria's Vienna Art Orchestra (by the way, in early 2001 he showed up in the States for the first time since 1994, successfully performing at Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival).

Album of the Year: Yuri Parfyonov - Alex Rostotsky, "Oriental Impress" (L-Junction). Produced by Rostotsky, an electric bass player and composer himself, this album is one of the rare examples of successful creative fusion of jazz language grammar and Central Asian music vocabulary. Parfyonov, 53, a brilliant trumpet player, has been raised in Uzbekistan and mastered both jazz and oriental music. Since late 70s, he lives in Moscow, working for Russia's (and, perhaps, world's) oldest Oleg Lundstrem Big Band (existing since 1934), as well as playing avant-garde with one of Russia's most radical new jazz formations Three O and exploring "oriental jazz" boundaries together with Rostotsky.

Event of the Year: Jazz at Hermitage Garden, an open-air festival in downtown Moscow (August; produced by Yuri Saulsky and Michael "Don Miguel" Green). Hermitage Garden's earlier edition has been already awarded by JazzEar in 1999.

Musician Deserving a More Wide Recognition - Yuri Parfyonov, trumpet (see above).

Master of the Year: tenor sax player Stanislav Grigoriev (1938-2001). Grigoriev, who died late April, 2001, of a heart attack, was among Russia's most significant jazz soloists throughout 70s and 80s and worked with country's best bands (Allegro, Oleg Lundstrem Big Band, Anatoly Kroll Big Band etc.). In 2000, he toured Russia's with the Russian-Brazilian Project led by pianist Andrei Kondakov (including Sergio Brandao on bass, Paolo Braga on drums and Cafe on percussion).

Hope of the Year: Alexey Kruglov. 23-years-old alto and tenor sax player showed a significant progress during the year, leading several projects under his name in a wide style spectrum from free jazz to post-swing based upon Soviet-era pop tunes.

Venue of the Year: Le Club (for the second time in a row). 250-seats 7-days-a-week club, led by Russia's best saxophone player Igor Butman, hosted hundreds of jazz concerts last year, including the likes of Billy Cobham's Higher Ground, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen trio, Joe Locke, Paul Bollenback, Keny Garrett Quartet, Gary Bartz etc.

Chairman's Special Prize: Critic Dmitry Ukhov, MJJA's chairman since 1998, awarded two of his favorite projects:

a. Landy Star/Jazzland label, an August, 2000 startup, that broke through with 11 significant releases last year (and in 2001, continuing with 8 so far).

b. On the Carpet Festival of Oriental Music (Club Dom, December - including NYC's Frank London - Anthony Coleman duo, Austrian-living and Tuva-born singer Sainkho Namchelak etc. - see my article in DownBeat, March' 01 issue, World section).

One nomination traditionally leads to no diploma or award, and this is "Minus of the Year" -- weakest or the most pretentious jazz project. In 2000, this was "The Glenn Miller Orchestra In Kremlin" -- a pathetic show advertised under the U.S. flag as "The Original Glenn Miller Orchestra" while the band was a British clone; tickets to the Kremlin Concert Palace cost up to $200, which is twice more than average monthly wages in Russia).

Cyril Moshkow

Cyril Moshkow, past president of the Moscow JJA, presented the JJA with three original handrawn Russian jazz images, as our guest and award-giver at the Jazz Awards 2001 in Birdland, NYC, June 14, 2001.


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