Rostotsky brings Moscow to Kampala - Johnson Grace Maganja - The Observer

A guest admires some of Rostotsky's art pieces


By 6pm last Friday, all was set in Sheraton hotel’s Rwenzori ballroom.

The Jazz Bass Theatre crew tested their machines for yet another explosive concert. An exhibition of art paintings and CDs by Alex Rostotsky was going on. The CDs were going for Shs 15,000 to Shs 50,000, while the art works ranged from $400 to $1,300.

One of the art pieces was titled A constellation of fishes and birds, priced at $550.

“This is a picture about life. It has a sign of Pisces, which is my star sign,” Rostotsky said. So what would be unique about this concert? I asked.

Multi-talented Alex Rostotsky plays his e-bass electric guitar

“The music I am going to play represents people from the different point of view of culture,” he answered.

He was in the company of Paulina Melik, one of the directors at the Russian African Foundation for Science, Culture and Economic Development (RAFSCED) as he fielded questions from his guests. Sanyu FM’s Crystal Newman was emcee at the gig that also had familiar faces, such as Capital FM’s Allan Kasujja and reggae artiste Ras B. Ssali.

At about 8pm, the multi-talented Russian came on stage, donning a black long-sleeve shirt and green corduroy trousers. He carried a red e-bass electric guitar and introduced his crew, before playing a piece from Russia. Lev Slepner one of the Jazz Bass Theatre members displayed great skills playing the Marimba-vibes, while Rostotsky played the guitar, Timur Nekrasov played the saxophone and Alexander Kulkov manned the drums.

Our own Isaiah Katumwa also featured and played a saxophone as he performed with Rostotsky. He was given a thunderous applause after the Russian piece was done. Rostotsky’s combination of the marimba, guitar, saxophones and drums produced a sweet melody of jazz that captivated the audience.

Alex Rostotsky (L) takes on Uganda's Isaiah Katumwa (C)

Notable in the Art Splash concert audience were Uganda’s Ambassador to Russia, Dr Moses Ebuk, Susan Muhwezi, Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof Venansius Baryamureeba and a delegation from RAFSCED. Ndere Troupe’s performance of the Luganda folk song, Tweyanze, brought Russia home to many and spiced the concert.
“This is the first time I have attended a jazz concert. It was a great performance,” said Doreen Akello, a guest at the concert.
The show ended past 10pm and from the contented smiles around, it was an exceptional display of talent.


Written by Johnson Grace Maganja

source - "The Observer"


When art met music - Yoash Yose - Daily Monitor


  Rostotsky (L) is joined on stage by Isaiah Katumwa. Photo by Stephen Otage
The stunning cultural alchemy of arts reveals the elaborate, creative punk genius of an artist, composer, bass player, arranger, producer and founder of the Jazz Bass Theatre, Alex Rostotsky, whose combination of oil and acyl on canvas has become some of the most exuberant work seen in popular culture today.
Ensconced at Rwenzori Ballroom, the Art Splash ushered me with paintings of bold manipulation of medium over subject. He turns oil and acyl into a form that bridges seamlessly between a journey and contemporary art. His work asks the viewer to experience the familiar with new eyes. Fish, birds are transformed into a mystical delight of colour. Rostotsky was crowning the Russian Cultural week that ended on February 3.
During his lecture, Rostotsky referenced a Marcel Proust quote “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscape but having new eyes.” “Painting is the noblest art” it’s not a stretch to state that. What Rostotsky has done with oil and acryl is a form of painting. That’s just formally true.
Oil and acryl as materials would enter his consciousness without an act of will. Locating beauty through design is Rostotsky’s never ending goal, revealing one perfect aesthetic moment after another in compositions that are locked with painstaking attention to every handsome detail. “I have always been fascinated with the power and mystery of beautiful places,” he said.
Being in a mobile creative union Jazz Bass Theatre, is a flexible band that is able to perform up to six musical plays or performances in assorted combinations and experiencing different cultures the artiste was amazed by use of renegade urban art to claim a cutting edge identity with the stiff and conservative arena of the Russian music industry.
The collaboration of bright colour, pisces and aves affirmed itself when the beauty appeared in the ‘Night Ntumbu’, a painting of an African lady that depicts her nature in a way that is compelling and original with a dark background, he baked a talking beauty.
‘Constellation of fish and birds’, ‘A woman’s world’ among others are some of his art pieces. There are many comprehensive bands that delve into the minute details of the art of orchestra. Jazz Bass Theater, a Russian quartet of first class musicians; Lev Slepner the marimbaphonist, Alexander Kulkov the drummer, Timur Nekrasov, a jazz-saxophonist and Rostotsky on the base guitar offered us a wispy two hours.
In a brief survey of his own library and the plethora of orchestrating Rostotsky performed Africa my love named after his vision of an unseen beauty. Just before the music drift he invited the audience to a journey. He called it music in travel. This composition appeared the shortest but far at an amazingly succinct. It contains entertaining anecdotes, beat-by-beat it guides you to that breathless moment.
This package is analogous to a flight safety brochure tacked in the seat pocket in front of you in a commercial airplane. It is not subtle nor beautifully rendered but completely understandable to anyone.
Kampala surely noticed his marque smile and musical brilliance and the orchestra began touring extensively including trips down my spine. His fame and popularity were on the rise.
More importantly, Rostotsky entered 30 years of his career visiting Africa and Uganda for the first time. He relied on ideas from his trips and wrote compositions individually rather than an anonymous section player with all that work and a line up of marvelous, distinctive musical notes.
by Yoash Yose, Daily Monitor

Not-So-Modest Mussorgsky in Moscow - Frederick Bernas tries to cover the whole world of jazz, and not just the famous players at the name clubs. This is more than a quest for brotherhood and goodwill, but also driven by a realization that some of today’s most exciting developments are happening outside the US, especially when talented artists mix the jazz sensibility with the best of their local or regional musical culture.
Frederick Bernas, who covers the Moscow jazz scene for us, finds just this in a performance by Alex Rostotsky at the V & J Club in central Moscow. Here Rostotsky, a hot electric bassist in a Jaco mold, takes on the music of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881). Rostotsky's new CD is still a rare item in the West, but you are encouraged to check out the video, even if your Russian is rusty.

Jazz and classical music enjoy an unpredictably tempestuous relationship: polar opposites in one sense, yet drawing ever closer in another. The very act of improvisation is alien to many classical players, but jazz musicians often receive a dual upbringing. Contemporary jazz in particular has seen frequent blurring of genre boundaries between the two, with people including Wayne Shorter, Chris Potter, Jacques Loussier and Uri Caine experimentally combining elements of both and compositional techniques growing ever more sophisticated.
Russia is no exception to this rising trend. With its magnificent classical history and fertile developing jazz scene, perhaps that’s no surprise—but it is nevertheless slightly unusual that one of the leading advocates is Alex Rostotsky, an electric bassist who favours a distinctly Jaco-esque fretless fusion sound.
On February 28, Rostotsky presented his new album Pictures at an Exhibition or Promenade with Mussorgsky at the recently opened V & J Club in central Moscow. As the title would suggest, it features jazz interpretations of some of the great Russian composer’s most famous works; Rostotsky is aided by pianist Yakov Okun and Alexander Mashin on drums, with a grand finale featuring the Russian State Symphony Orchestra and original music by Alexander Rosenblatt. An optional DVD to accompany the CD gives a fascinating insight into the making of the final track, a 16-minute sweeping epic that ebbs and flows through the full emotional continuum.

“The music of Mussorgsky is so strong that it invites interpretations and assimilations in other genres,” said Rostotsky in an interview with, Russia’s leading jazz magazine. “Maybe this was the first composition in Russian musical history for jazz trio and symphony orchestra. I dreamt for many years about such an idea. I heard a few seconds of Rosenblatt’s demo recording and immediately understood we had to make the project together.”
The live experience, although lacking an orchestra, nevertheless nearly matched the viscous intensity catalysed by Rosenblatt, Rostotsky and conductor Sergey Skripka in Rosenblatt’s “Concert Fantasia.” The trio’s deft interactions were augmented by Spanish artist Fernando Gimeno Perez, who produced spontaneous sketches to accompany the playing, every stroke projected onto a screen beside the stage. During a couple of quieter moments, the gristly brush of the charcoal even became a musical voice in itself.
“Rich Jew, Poor Jew” sees a klezmer-oriented bass drone slowly build up after Rostotsky’s introduction, before a brief piano interlude and the return of the ostinato and Okun’s harmonically dexterous overlaid solo. He has inherited something of the mathematical, scientific approach from his father Mikhail, a venerable elder statesman of Russian jazz who performed at the V & J on February 26. Mashin cuts loose for a few rounds between crashing dissonant chords, before settling back down to burn menacingly, eerily scraping his cymbals as the track draws to a close.
Rostotsky’s sustained, humming presence is a feature of the record, like an electric current running through the music as he channels the energy of his counterparts. It adds welcome variety to the standard trio palette—his occasional devious intrusions are worth listening out for beneath Mashin’s busy beats and scampering ideas. A fine example is “The Old Castle,” a 10-minute offering where the rhythm section works together to subtly up the ante for Okun’s ponderous, musing solo that understatedly takes its time to say what he wants to say.
The words ‘Mussorgsky’ and ‘post-bop’ in the same sentence may seem an unlikely marriage of conflicting interests. Some conservatives would splutter at the very thought of such a union. However, there is one essential aspect of human nature which must not be forgotten: opposites attract.

posted by Frederick Bernas

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