GET UP AND GO / NESELOVSKYI: On a Bicycle. Winter. San Felio. Station Taiga.* Who Is It? Krai. Interlude I. Prelude for Vibes. Get Up and Go. Interlude II. Almost December* / Vadim Neselovskyi Trio: Neselovskyi, pn/melodica; Dan Loomis, bs; Ronen Itzik, dm/perc. Guest: *Sara Serpia, voc / BluJazz BJ3449
This CD, available May 19, is the debut recording of the Vadim Neselovskyi Trio. A native Ukrainian, Neselovskyi left more than 20 years ago but always feels a spiritual bond with his native land every time he performs there. This CD makes emotional allusions to the political turmoil his country currently faces.
I’m not a fan of politicized art because it dates the art and lessens its impact for listeners who have not experienced or felt the emotions of the creator. I am a firm believer that music and painting are not so much representational arts of political uphevals so much as expressions of the creators’ feelings, regardless of political turmoil. Beethoven’s Vienna was under and almost constant siege and in fact caused the composer great discomfort, but he didn’t write a Bombs Are Falling Symphony. He wrote about his own inner state of being. And in many of these pieces, I felt that Neselovskyi did the same.
Neselovskyi can play very fast despite the fact that his articulation—the separation of notes in fast passages—is not always even. Nonetheless, what I hear is a composer sitting at the keyboard and communicating with us, which in many ways is rarer and more valuable. On a Bicycle sets up a spinning double-time figure in the piano’s mid-range, with his right hand playing complementary figures in the upper register. The piece often breaks off in its discourse as Neselovskyi makes pauses, changes direction or allows his bassist to take over for a few bars. Eventually, the music becomes louder and busier as Neselovskyi brings the piece to fruition before simply stopping the spinning figure in the midst of a phrase.
Winter is a quiet, ruminative piece, almost classical in design. Bassist Dan Loomis plays bowed here, contributing to the mood with a sumptuous solo that defines the melody. When he finishes, cymbal washes are heard behind the leader as he continues the theme and plays variants on it. San Felio also begins with spinning figures, but quickly morphs into a fast-paced but straightahead swinger with a few Vince Guaraldi overtones. Much of this piece, however, seemed to stay in one place a bit too long before changing and moving on.
Station Taiga, another ballad, features the lovely, wordless vocal of Portuguese singer Sara Serpia. This piece has a strong Eastern sound about its melody, with that minor-key sort of sadness that only such music plays up to such a degree. Except for the leader’s background figures, most of this sounds through-composed and not improvised. At about the 5:05 mark, the leader overdubs himself playing the melodica for a fluttery, improvised solo.
Who Is It? returns us once again to Neselovskyi’s favorite sort of rhythm, fast with double-time riffs. Here, however, the melody line is more obscure and ambiguous, which ironically lends itself better to his form of improvisation. The contributions of Loomis and Itzik figure strongly into the overall sound picture here. Krai, which Neselovskyi states in the notes uses quotes from the Russian Orthodox prayer service, follows next, and here he seamlessly combines elements of jazz and classical music in a splendid piano solo. Snippets of Russian folk song also come and go in this piece.
Interlude I is a bass solo in E in which Loomis plays against his own plucked ground bass. This is followed by Prelude for Vibes, which is an adaptation of Next Generation’s title track composed with Gary Burton in mind. This piece features, by far, Neselovskyi’s most creative and fascinating solo on the album as well as one of Loomis’ finest moments. Surprisingly, Get Up and Go begins as a ballad, using his patented rolling bass line to transform it into something livelier. Once again, the music seems knitted together of various themes related by key and tempo rather than a continuously evolving composition. Neselovskyi plays an extremely energetic chorus which then leads into his own overdubbed melodica solo. The wrap-up is intense and energetic.
Interlude II involves the whole trio, playing an amorphous, out-of-tempo piece that sounds much like free jazz for a minute and a half. This in turn leads into the last tune on the album, Almost December, another slow mood piece, this time also featuring Serpia on vocal.
Get Up and Go is an interesting album with some very strong moments. I’m curious to see how Neselovskyi’s talent develops in the future! In the meantime, you can watch as well as listen to the trio on their YouTube video of a set from the 2017 Jazzahead festival.
—© 2017 Lynn René Bayley