Yednist is the biggest jazz forum in the Ukrainian capital. Originally launched with support from the Kyiv Department for Culture, starting this year it is a totally independent business relying on its own resources and funding from sponsors. Owing to the dedicated efforts of producer Serhii Hrabar, and his assistant Oksana Kohut, director of the Jazz Theater Agency, the festival’s reputation is growing in leaps and bounds, considering the professional level of participating musicians. This year Yednist 2007 was held at the Operetta Theater and Pyvna Bochka, the Beer Barrel Club.
The festival was opened by the children’s orchestra Little Band Academy, conducted by Viktor Basiuk. The soiree’s special guest was Kyiv’s excellent tenor saxophonist Dmytro Aleksandrov. The young performers were followed by a Kharkiv quartet led by pianist Serhii Davydov (with Leonid Khaisman on bass guitar; Yevhen Selezniov on drums; and guest star, Kyiv’s tenor saxophonist Oleksandr Rukomoinykov). The quartet recently recorded its first CD “Ukrainian Jazz Dances” and performed a few songs from the album during the festival. Davydov, who composed most of the songs, writes original music filled with folkloric allusions and occasional echoes of jazz standards, fresh metrorhythmical and harmonious airs, and interesting composition.
The audience was also impressed by the popular Er. J. Orchestra. This Kyiv jazz orchestra represented Ukraine at the Kaunas festival this spring, where it familiarized Lithuanian music lovers with our improvisational music. This orchestra has a solid discography. As a rule, its compositions are optimistic, and their performance at the Yednist festival was mild and lyrical.
Another musician who impressed the audience was Volodymyr Solianyk, who is known for his avant-garde quests in Ukrainian jazz. Solianyk’s compositions can be described as arabesques and fleeting chimeras. Among the other highlights of Yednist 2007 was a trio led by Lithuanian soprano saxophonist Piatras Visniauskas, the German drummer Klaus Kugel, and the Ukrainian double bassist Marko Tokar. Visniauskas and Kugel are rising stars of European jazz. The Lviv-based Tokar was also up to the mark. The musicians did not play standard pieces. Their improvisations were an example of intellectualism combined with philharmonic and moderate avant-garde quests. The trio’s music was deep- reaching and masterful.
The first performers were the young members of Lviv’s folk-funk-acid quintet Chocolate, who are just taking their first tentative steps in the professional jazz domain. Despite their inexperience their performance was confident, interesting, and substantial. This Lviv group has an organic bond with Ukrainian elements. The audience was impressed by their professionalism and differing styles ranging from academic music to jazz chimeras. Most of the improvisation pieces were composed by drummer Ihor Hnidyn. The young singer, Dana Vinnytska, gave a good performance, using both scat and antiscat techniques, which served to diversify the group’s timbral range. Alto saxophonist Volodymyr Urban, pianist Nastia Lytvyniuk, and bass player Serhii Brydun put on a terrific show.
Chocolate was followed by the Kharkiv-based group Anno Domini led by Maryna Zakharova, a singer and creator of lyrical compositions filled with Oriental and Gypsy ethnic intonations. She was assisted by guitarist Dima Gorelik from Israel and percussionist Orkhan Agabekov.
The Aramis jazz group got a lot of applause. The experienced keyboard player, Volodymyr Prykhozhai, has put together an excellent team of top-notch musicians, including the US trumpeter Dean Betts, tenor saxophonist Ivan Kulyzhnykov, bass guitarist Serhii Tarasenko, drummer Valentyn Andrushchenko, and percussionist Maksym Rudenko. The powerful energy and beautiful solo improvisations captivated the audience from the very first notes.
The Romanian singer Teodora Enache performed a bewitching set assisted by French accordionist Emy Dragoi, Valentyn Korniienko on double bass, and percussionist Oleksandr Berehovsky, both from Kyiv. Enache demonstrated a perfect command of folk and jazz vocal techniques. She turned out to be the most experienced performer at Yednist 2007 and left the audience enchanted.
The festival ended with a performance by the Finnish group Olli Siikanen Power Trio, whose members are guitarist Olli Siikanen, double bassist Lasse Lindgren, and drummer Ville Pynssi. These musicians often take part in other European projects, and are also known to music fans, who attended Koktebel Jazz 2006. Their music is avant-garde and experimental, but often betrays rock and tango overtones.