This compilation of Rostotsky’s recordings documents just one facet of his music’s poly-cultural approach. For «A Swan Is Swimming By» he chose from his 21st century records nine tracks with a focus on Russian music. Of course he had recorded more than nine tracks of Russian-influenced music: for an instance, his 2006 album, «Pictures At An Exhibition Or Promenade With Mussorgsky» (JBT/One records) consisted entirely of jazz readings from the great Russian classical composer’s book. But this compilation does not have any composer’s music in it – that is, other than Rostotsky’s; but all his compositions in this new album are based upon the melodies of Russian folk songs, and (in seven tracks out of nine) on the genuine folk lyrics.
One should not, however, seek in this music neither ethnographic document nor simplified pop-folk approximation. Nothing is that simple here. Melodies and harmonies of Slavic folklore are easy to recognize here, but they are cleverly combined with many other unlikely elements, such as electronic rhythms, or sharp Indian percussion, or quasi-classical symphony sounds, while all those elements are nailed together with prolonged improvisational statements which are, undoubtedly, jazz. Most prominently, it is the work of Yuri Parfenov that stands out. The trumpet and flugelhorn virtuoso was Rostotsky’s steady musical partner during the 2000s, bringing in Alex’s projects his expertise in oriental music: Parfenov first came to prominence in 1970s Soviet jazz as the principal soloist in Bumerang, Uzbekistan-based jazz rock combo which added a lot of Central Asian spices in their own brand of fusion. Other strong jazz soloists in «A Swan Is Swimming By» are guitarist Pavel Chekmakovsky, tenor saxophonist Sergei Golovnya, and others.
But it is vocals that gives this album its special flavor. Classical singers Anna Sokolova and Elena Romanova, an entire chamber choir led by Vyacheslav Simonov, and spicy Indian voiice of Indian tabla master Keshab Kanti Chowdhury all make different tracks to shine their different sound facets, but the most exotic element of the album’s sound is Rostotsky’s own singing voice. He has a certain vocal experience (he sung for years in an Orthodox Christian church choir, after all,) but his singing in this album does not play the standard vocal role: it is rather an integral part of the instrumental arrangement, as Alex more often sings through a vocoder than not – which adds his voice a strange shade of an exotic synthesized sound, either mystical, or romantic, or slightly ironical.
All this combined, the listener experiences an unusual whole, in which we can single out different elements of different styles and influences, but hardly we shall. This is not entirely jazz, entirely not rock, definitely not a study in ethnomusicology and not a stereotyped example of «world music» – it is just Alex Rostotsky’s music, as individual as it gets, and turned to the listener by its recognizably Russian side in this record.
editor-in-chief, Jazz.Ru magazine
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1. A swan is swimming by ‒ 8.20 Alex Rostotsky
2. Once upon a time in the city if Kazan ‒ 5.20 Alex Rostotsky
3. Oh, you my field ‒ 2.07 Alex Rostotsky
4. It was said long ago ‒ 3.21 Alex Rostotsky
5. Krivichi ‒ 7.24 Alex Rostotsky
6. The bells rang in Novgorod ‒ 7.01 Alex Rostotsky
7. Oi, liulli-liulli ‒ 3.36 folk, Alex Rostotsky
8. Over the river ‒ 7.15 Alex Rostotsky
Bonus track: I am going to pick mushrooms and berries... Alex Rostotsky
Alex Rostotsky ‒ vocals, synthesizers, vocoder, programming, bass, Yury Parfenov ‒trumpet, Anna Sokolova ‒ vocals, Pavel Checkmakovsky ‒ guitar, Sergey Ostroumov ‒ drums, String Orchestra, Elena Romanova ‒ vocals, Mixed Chamber Choir (conductor – Vyacheslav Simonov), Keshab Kanti Chowdhury – vocals, Sergey Golovnya – tenor-saxophone, Evgeny Borets – grand piano, syntesizers, Anton Revnyuk – bass