© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“… We want to hear propulsion, originality, coherence, imagination and excitement in jazz. We want sounds that beguile, provoke, amuse and sooth. We want those sounds to provide insights into those who make them, who we can then identify as a lot like us. That's why we like their music: it resonates with what we'd do, if we but could.”
- Howard Mandel, Jazz author and journalist
One of the [sadly] most memorable highlights in recent television viewing was Treme’, a drama set in
three months after Hurricane
Katrina. New Orleans
Airing on HBO beginning in 2010, Treme’ primarily follows musicians and residents as they try to put their lives back together in the aftermath of the storm.
Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic tropical cyclone of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the
with winds that reached upwards
of 180 mph. The storm caused over 1,800 casualties and was particularly
devastating in the United States ' Lower 9th Ward which even today
has “… grasses that grow taller than people and street after street which are
scarred by empty decaying houses; the lives that once played out inside their
walls hardly imaginable now.” New Orleans
New Orleans has long been credited as the birthplace of Jazz and strange as it may seem, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles was reminded of the fact with the recent arrival of Ukrainian-born bassist Ark Ovrutski’s latest CD 44:30 on Zoho Records [ZIM 201402; the disc gets its title from the total playing time on the CD].
Why with a new CD led by a bassist who was born in
, studied at the Kiev of Music, ran a Jazz club in Russian Academy and attended Berklee College of
Music seminars in Krakow, Poland before immigrating to Italy in 2005 create reminiscences of New York ? New Orleans
All one has to do to answer this question is listen to the opening track on 44:30 which appropriately enough is entitled – New Orleans – which Howard Mandel describes in his insert as “… an upbeat ode to the Crescent City universally honored as the cradle to Jazz.” He goes on to say: “Pianist David Berkman and drummer Ulysses Owens set the pace, the
enters to deepen the street parade pocket. Michael
Thomas, playing soprano sax, and trombonist Michael Dease trade phrases up ‘til
a chorus of joint improvisation, and converge on a hip bluesy line.
Appropriately for a tune celebrating Ark ’ rhythms, Owens’ drum solo is
stellar.” New Orleans
And there you have it in a nutshell: 44:30 proves that irrespective of where you are born and no matter what generation your age places you in,
cradles you into its musical traditions,
primary among which is Jazz. New Orleans
Ark Ovrutski, Michael Thomas, Michael Dease, David Berkman and Ulysses Owens are splendidly capable and talented musicians who have a lot to say and say it well. 44:30 is one of those joyous surprises that reaffirms why you fell in love with Jazz in the first place. Its exciting music and it will move you emotionally and rhythmically because it is based on the primary ingredient of Jazz – it swings.
Chris DiGirolamo of TwofortheShow Media sent along all of Howard Mandel’s insert notes as a media release and since I couldn’t improve on them I’d thought I’d share them with you.
Howard Mandel is the author of Future Jazz and Miles Ornette Cecil-Jazz Beyond Jazz, writes for many publications, reports for National Public Radio, blogs at ArtsJournal.com/JazzBeyondJazz and is president of the Jazz Journalists Association.
© -Howard Mandel, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Wherever in the world or in whatever disposition a jazz musician starts their professional journey, he or she must eventually come to grips with creating a personal approach based on technique, imagination and feeling. Ukrainian emigre composer and bassist Ark Ovrutski likes to say that since age 20 he has been an "international homeless traveler." With 44:33, his third album as a leader,
has arrived. Ark
A program of bright melodies, tight ensemble collaboration, individualized solos and firm underlying swing, 44:33 -titled for its running time — is an expression of accomplishment and direction from a coterie of players, instigated by a well informed, thoroughly engaged leader. Multi-reedist Michael Thomas, trombonist Michael Dease, pianist David Berkman and drummer Ulysses Owens are all players from the top echelon of
's abundance of talented jazzers. New York is pivotal at the band's core,
generating material as well as holding everything together. Ark
, Kiev was playing violin at age 8 — but
not out of love of classical music. Influenced by his father who admired Duke
Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, he remembers being "always excited by
swing." Today Ark regards Charles Mingus as his
hero, citing Mingus' goal of advancing the art of a composer-bassist towards a
melding of classical and jazz traditions. "I'm working on the challenge of
being a bassist - not just a prominent soloist," Ark explains. "I think the
future requires bassists to have both classical-level technique and a jazz
player's ability to lead and improvise." Ark
attended Berklee College of
Music's summer clinics in Ark . Told that to advance his career,
he should be in Italy , he applied for and received a
scholarship to America 's Drummers Collective, in which
he enrolled in 2005. He was soon gigging in New York City Harlem clubs such as the Lenox Lounge,
Minton's and St. Nicholas Pub with the circle of
musicians including vocalist Gregory Porter. He was also mentored by drummer
Duduka Da Fonseca, with whom he has recorded and toured, and who is prominent
on 's 2011 self-released album Sounds
of Ark . Brazil
began work on his masters’ degree
in music at Ark in Rutgers University , studying with bassist Mike
Richmond, drummer Victor Lewis and pianist Stanley Cowell, among others.
Veteran bassist Bob Cranshaw advised him to go for a doctorate, which he's done
at New Jersey at Urbana-Champaign. Taking the
most ambitious compositions of Charles Mingus as his thesis project, University of Illinois has just completed his degree
requirements and at this writing is about to receive his Ph.D. Ark
Such credentials are admirable, but jazz musicians are only as good as their music, and that's where
& company shines. 44:33 opens
with Ark , an upbeat ode to the New Orleans universally honored as the cradle
of jazz. Pianist Berkman and drummer Owens set the pace, then Crescent City enters to deepen the street
parade pocket. Thomas, playing soprano, and trombonist Dease trade phrases up
'til a chorus of joint improvisation, and converge on a hip, bluesy line.
Appropriately for a tune celebrating Ark ' rhythms, Owens' solo is stellar. New Orleans
Waltz follows, demonstrating variety and consistency with pretty airiness.
's intro seems to pulse with the
funky insistence of a CTI-era bass part a la Freddie Hubbard's "Red
Clay," however the quintet unfolds this composition in a different mode
entirely. Dease, who's worked with Ark in such Ark venues as Dizzy's Club and NuBar
since 2009, projects warmth through his muted sound; Thomas takes a silvery
turn on alto sax. Manhattan 's spotlight passage has a
confident throb that connects tunefully to his intro - which he notes
"sounds like it's in 5/4, but is actually in 3/4 (waltz time)." The
track's ending is especially mellow. Ark
Up is, of course, quick, with
's walk sprightly, not rushed.
There's something of John Coltrane's "Impressions" in Up - maybe the sax/'bone harmonization
that nods to that classic's blend of Coltrane's and Eric Dolphy's inimitable
voices. Berkman sparkles, as he does throughout this album whether soloing or
underscoring. Ark 's break is dark and deft; he goes
for an earthy, springy sound. Ark
Baby's Vibe, which subtly references "Infant Eyes" by Wayne Shorter (another of
's musical models) has a tender
vibe, unusual for a trombone-led number. Thomas's alto matches Dease's 'bone,
their parts twining like vine. Ark
Medium, launched by a drum roll and trilling horns, is also companionable. The band makes its easy swing seem easy to achieve, but don't take its mastery for granted. Thomas bespeaks post-bop on his soprano sax, which is also unusual;
, in his solo, dances on his
strings. The group's cool modesty is becoming. Ark
The exacting melody Milestones - the "Milestones" written by John Lewis for Miles Davis's 1947 debut with Charlie Parker, not the "Milestones" Davis himself wrote for his '58 recording with the musicians who cut Kind of Blue - is 44:33's sole track not written by Ark. Dease's arrangement is beautifully interpreted - I especially like the connection between the horns and Berkman's accompaniment.
's solo chorus is flavored by
Mingus-like urgency, yet pleasure emanates from the music's totality more than
any particulars, as he binds the disparate instruments into a cohesive whole. Ark
The finale Path Train was inspired by the commute to
made daily in 2005, when living
in Manhattan Ark . Benito Gonzalez plays Jersey
City Rhodes electric piano, getting the big, glistening tone that Joe
Zawinul promoted when he introduced this gear on Cannonball Adderley's 1966 hit
"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." 's groove is just right; the
quintet aces the concluding stop-time breaks as if the task were as natural as
breathing, the better to frame Owens. Ark
"As a composer, I'm still learning," says
"Trying to get to the truth
with music is hard. Michael Dease says I use a lot of 'slash chords' — meaning
one triad on top of another in layers, for polytonal and polychordal purposes,
the way composer Darius Milhaud explored. But I try not to forget about the
blues scale and feel. I like Wayne Shorter's example: always modern, always
jazz. Let's not forget we're playing jazz!" Ark.
That's an important point for listeners as well as musicians. We want to hear propulsion, originality, coherence, imagination and excitement in jazz. We want sounds that beguile, provoke, amuse and sooth. We want those sounds to provide insights into those who make them, who we can then identify as a lot like us. That's why we like their music: it resonates with what we'd do, if we but could.
Ark Ovrutski and his cohorts can, and do. So a "homeless international traveler" and his colleagues turn from being strangers into something more like neighbors, better than acquaintances — friends. Quite a feat that they pull off in 44:33. - Howard Mandel”
For more information about
, please visit his website at www.arkovrutski.com/ Ark
The following video features
and the quintet on Ark from 44:30 as set to images of
the city and poster art from the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festivals. New Orleans