The Second Moscow Jass Festival "Jazz in Hermitage Garden" is over. It represented jazz music from Russia, Ukraine, Turkmenia and Poland. Some listeners suffered the absence of big bands - there...

The Second Moscow Jass Festival "Jazz in Hermitage Garden" is over. It represented jazz music from Russia, Ukraine, Turkmenia and Poland. Some listeners suffered the absence of big bands - there were none of them. But numerous combos varied in styles and in instruments. Most listeners specially mentioned instruments quite rare for jazz as well as players played them, like five-string violin (Felix Lahuti) and accordion (Vladimir Danilin). Talking about rare for Russian festivals birds, all-men vocal sextet from Kiev, Ukraine, "Man Sound", was really worth mentioning. Very strong voices, especially bass Reuben Tolmachev. Very original approach to the Ukrainian Folklore.

A lot of young musicians. Both critics and listeners put an eye on pianist Andrey Razin. They were many young players among the members of older and famous musicians' ensembles. Due to their high level of musicianship, openness to the newer approaches, the traditionalist combos sounded fresh and unpredicted. Victor Epaneshnikov's (dr.) five-piece band seemed to be the most interesting among such a groups. Yakov Okun (p.), Igor Kondur (b.), Dimitry Mospan (tsax) - all of them appeared as bright soloists. Unexpected problems with double bass just added dramaticism and spice to their performance. Not just musicians were far from being bewildered, they approached it as a game to expose themselves as bold improvisers.

Some liked, some did not that the same musicians played in various different acts. But everybody were smashed by the 'Stars of Russia' performance. It was the ensemble consisting of members of different groups which were brought together just before the show. Really, star names only: Igor Brill, Alexei Kuznetsov, Stanislav Grigoriev, Victor Guseinov, Anatoly Sobolev, Alexander Goretkin.

Talking of benefits and shortcomings of the festival, sad to mention almost total absence of ethnic jazz. Some acts, like Nissa from Turkmenia or Second Approach from Moscow, used some lore roots, but it was just use of material in a jazz or pop context. Meanwhile, it worth mentioning that almost with every group original songs sounded more solid than standard jazz evergreens.

Real serious disadvantage was sound. Percussion, for instance, almost never could be heard, save solo moments. (This is a typical mistake of Russian soundmen on live shows.) General lack of balance ruined the impression of music. Among serious achievement need to mention the list of performers. Alexander Rostotsky, legendary Russian bass player and artistic director of the festival, did his best to invite the most interesting acts and jazzers and joined many of them on stage. Also great and unexpected benefit was the commercial success of the festival. In spite of crisis, in spite of doubled in comparison with last year's festival admission ( Rbl. 100 and 50 respectively) the audience gathered was enough not only to to cover the expenses but to bring profit. Against all odds and skeptical prognoses, jazz more and more becomes popular in Moscow. And next festival is expected to be wider both in performers signed to it and in styles.

02.09.1999, Борис ЛАБКОВСКИЙ (ЗВУКИ РУ)