Jazz versions of classical opuses date back to the 1930s. A piece titled Bach Goes to Town recorded by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra and arranged by Alec Templeton, one of the first attempts of interaction between jazz playing and Bachs style, entered the jazz annals.
In Russia, Leonid Utyosovs orchestra successfully worked with themes by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. The big bands of Stan Kenton and Woody Herman sometimes used themes from classical pieces in their compositions as well. In the 1950s and 1960s, those trends found development in the so-called baroque jazz. Nevertheless, by the end of the 20th century, interaction between jazz idioms and the language of academic music became in most cases a novelty nearly losing its flavor.
However, the Sergey Zhilin Trio's new work Tchaikovsky in Jazz: The Seasons (reworked by Yuri Markin) has shown that the idea of jazzifying classical compositions is not just alive, but also at times able to deliver surprising results. Firstly, the choice of pieces proved to be absolutely accurate. Tchaikovskys The Seasons belongs to the repertoire of senior grades of children music schools and primary courses of music colleges. The numbers are hackneyed, habitual and even somewhat simple for advanced musicians. But suddenly these pieces expose a musical depth and a capability of musical development which would be even hard to imagine.
Secondly, when jazz piano mainstream turns to chamber, if not salon, music of the 19th century, it gets creative impetus so powerful that the seemingly typical texture and harmonic techniques suddenly work in a new fashion. Everything new and unusual about this project comes as if within the performed pieces. New harmonization of Tchaikovskys themes becomes possible inside them. It is not done because of the standard jazz chords but thanks to a harmonic language of late romanticism and music of the 20th century enriched with jazz tones.
It is amazing how easily and naturally the pieces from The Seasons composed in the last third of the 19th century absorb the styles of later periods jazz and non-jazz ones, including modern pop and rock music (Troika). It is also interesting how these themes evolve musically no matter if one anticipates it or not (a wonderful fugato in Barcarolle). Timbre surprises also happen the melody of Barcarolle with the bass guitar.
Numbered, Limited Edition
180g Vinyl LP
Sound engineer: S. Volkov
Mixing & Mastering: Y. Bogdanov
Mixing: Phonograph Records Studios
Recorded at Phonograph Records Studios August 15-30, 2009
Made in Germany
Sergey Zhilin Trio (Side A 1-3, Side B 1, 2, 4)
Sergey Zhilin (Side A 4, Side B 3)
1. December. Christmastide
2. January. At the Fireside
3. June. Barcarolle
4. March. Song of the Lark
1. October. Autumn Song
2. April. Snowdrop
3. February. Carnival
4. November. Troika