BLUES IN THE MOSCOW WHITE NIGHTS by organist Jon Hammond (USA) Powered by MSN TV aka WebTV
Backstage at Le Club jazz club in Moscow with Igor and Jon beaming after first successful concerts in Russia together! Note: See's Candy *in box, is a major sponsor of jazz events & concerts in San Francisco Bay Area thanks to Charles N. Huggins and company.
Jazz Quad article: "Blues In The Moscow White Nights"
The story of my first concerts in Russia with Igor Butman (sax), Eduard Zizak (drums) by organist Jon Hammond (USA) for Jazz Quad
Coming to Russia to play in concert together with Igor Butman and Eduard Zizak recently, was one of the greatest experiences in my life/career! I was highly anticipating this journey for many reasons. First of all since my family originally came from Russia and Latvia many years ago, I had heard so many stories as a young child about the land and people I was about to visit. My grandparents were never able to return to Russia but when I arrived it felt like I was coming home. From the beginning of my preparations I could see that this was not going to be any ordinary music tour! From obtaining visas it was apparent that the procedure was slightly different. I traveled with my girlfriend Jennifer on British Airways departing JFK to London and then from there we changed planes to Moscow. Upon arriving at Moscow SVO airport we quickly found ourselves among 20 persons who arrived with no baggage. There was nobody there to speak in English with from BA, so we had an interesting conversation and procedure with the official Lost and Found desk there and filled out the Baggage Irregularity Report papers. Leaving the customs area without our baggage we were very happy when we stepped out and saw a nice man holding a big Jon Hammond poster. We knew this was our man! Luckily we came 2 days before the concerts and our bags were finally found and delivered to our hotel the next day. Marat Garipov, the gentleman who came to pick us up, is one of Igor Butman's managers. Very nice guy and we had a great time speaking with him on the drive in to Moscow about his daughters and many shared interests. The traffic was very heavy coming in and it took about 1 1/2 hours to come in to Moscow, but we got a great first look at beautiful Moscow! What an incredible city...to me it looks like the Magic Kingdom that Walt Disney tried to recreate, only many of the buildings were built hundreds of years ago! Fantastic architecture. When we checked in to the hotel, first we had to surrender our passports for some sort of official process. When we came up to our room on the 10th floor we found that we had a spectacular view of Red Square right outside our windows! The view was absolutely magnificent. Because it was the 3rd week of June, the days are the longest of the year and known as the White Nights. 10 at night looked like bright daylight! My first night I spent making many calls to trace our baggage and see about getting our passports back while my girlfriend slept. Finally back in posesssion of my instruments and our passports I was then very relieved and could really start enjoying the fact that I was really in Moscow! The night before my first concert at Le Club, we were guests to attend the concert of bassist Alex Rostotsky and his fine group. We had a very enjoyable time dining and listening to Alex's music and got to meet him and his musicians later in the evening. We also had the pleasure of meeting Faina Antonova who is Igor's manager and also managing Le Club. She is very nice and took great care in arranging every detail of our stay in Moscow. I knew right away that we were in care of special angels. After a wonderful dinner/show and cappucinos at Le Club, Faina personally drove us back to our hotel, the famous Rossiya by Red Square. I was very tired by this point so I slept like a rock. The next day was the big Friday of our first show. Most of the day I stayed in the room practicing my instrument and looking out at Red Square. Jennifer and I wanted to get to the club early so that we could get a sound check and settle in. Faina picked us up and we stuffed my organ and all our equipment in her compact car and off we went to Le Club in the Taganka Theatre Building. When we arrived the big friendly doormen picked up my heavy cases like they were toothpicks and brought them up the stairs for me! Vladimir the sound engineer for the club was very smooth and professional, and a very nice guy. We got a good sound on the organ and then came Eduard Zizak the great drummer! I had already met Eduard in New York the week before when he was there performing with Igor's quartet at Birdland. Eduard is an incredible drummer and also a very nice guy. We made a little soundcheck and right away I could tell that he had listened to my music and we would lock up with some very tight grooves...no problem! But where was Igor? I was hoping for a little mini-rehearsel with Igor but when I saw the public coming in to have dinner I knew it was too late for that! Igor arrived with his entourage and it was great to see him...he told me not to worry and apologised for not coming earlier. Igor is in big demand with a very busy schedule, so I am very lucky and honored that he could take the time to perform with me together even as his new cd album "Prophecy" was just released on the Universal Label. We had time only for a 5 minute soundcheck and I showed Igor my book. This was going to be a very spontaneous performance, no doubt about it! We decided to record it, and Vladimir did a fantastic job on the recording on their new digital recording console that they had just brought back from New York. From the first notes I knew that this would be one of those magic nights I would never forget. The response from the audience was wonderful. I could only say in Russsian, "Ya LuBlu Vas"...which means, I love you all. And when I said the words to the people I got a great feeling back from them. First set was just fine and then on the break I was introduced to many press people and some fantastic local musicians. I was very honored that they all came to greet me. And then Igor proudly introduced me to 2 of the legendary jazz musicians of Moscow-accordionist Vladimir Danilin and guitarist Alexei Kuznezov. They said they had their instruments in the car and so yes we decided right away to make a live session together. It was incredible from the first song on the 2nd set, playing together with these fantastic Moscow musicians! It felt like we had been playing together for 20 years. These musicians are some of the greatest I have ever heard and played together with. The audience was loving every bit of it, just as much as I! I was so happy that Vladimir was getting it all on tape and Jennifer was also running the video machine and taking pictures also. By the end of the night I was very satisfied with how everything went. Igor personally drove Jennifer and I back to the hotel in his nice car with fantastic sound system. Great night! The next day we got a nice tour from our friends Eva Steiner and her nice husband Leo from the Austrian Embassy. We ended the afternoon by having lunch in the Rossiya and I got to have my first excellent bowl of Borscht! I excused myself afterwards to take a nap as I was quite tired and knew it would be another big night at Le Club. I had a refreshing sleep and then I must say that the shower at the Rossiya is the best shower I have ever had in my life! The shower head resembles a little Sputnick! The water comes out full force...no water saving there at the Rossiya. Wonderful. This time when Faina picked us up we didn't have the organ with us. For the first time I left my instrument in the club because I could see the security there is excellent, 24 hours. Already there were journalists at the club to meet. I was very happy to meet Cyril Moshkow. We had many e mails before coming and he is a very nice guy also and very serious jazz journalist. He is the president of the Russian Jazz Journalist organization. We had a nice conversation and Cyril took some pictures of the concert for his website. Also we met Igor Moskvichev from Russian "Hit Parade" magazine and Mr. Kumalo from the South African Embassy.
foto by Jennifer Frizzell
Igor, Eduard and Jon in concert at Le Club jazz club, Moscow June 22, 2003 foto courtesy of Igor Moskvichev
The Journey Home to USA from Moscow
After the 2nd successful night playing in trio with Igor and Eduard, we sadly said our goodbyes. But we are very excited about Igor coming to New York with his entire 18 piece bigband to perform in concert with Wynton Marsalis and Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in September! Igor sent us back to the hotel in care of one of his professional security men. We were very happy and relaxed with no fears in the Moscow night as we sped through the streets in a taxicab back to the Rossiya. The following day we had a chance to do a little more shopping for souveniers and pack all the bags for our trip back to New York JFK. Checking out from the hotel the reception people were very friendly and asked me to autograph my new cd "Hammond's Bolero" for them *link: www.cdbaby.com/hammondthey called me Jazz Man. We enjoyed our stay there very much! It was a wonderful experience from beginning to end. I am happy that we have professional recordings of the concerts with Igor, Eduard and our special guest musicians Vladimir Danilin and Alexei Kuznezov. We are talking about creating a live cd release from the concerts at Le Club. As they say, we came to "Celebrate the diplomatic power of jazz" with ™ "Blues In The Moscow White Nights"! by Jon Hammond firstname.lastname@example.org http://community.webtv.net/laterent/JONHAMMOND ™ "The FINGERS...are the SINGERS!" *Member Local 802, Local 6/ASCAP Artist *special thanks to Igor Butman and Faina Antonova and Le Club team Moscow.
We went shopping in the famous GUM department store complex. Here I tried on a typical Russian fur hat. It is very warm in the summer! But good for winter I am sure.
We were very happy to find Le Club by Metro on our first full day in Moscow, and there I am standing by the poster for my concerts there with Igor and Eduard!
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This stunning view of Red Square from our hotel room window gave me the inspiration for the title "Blues In The Moscow White Nights" (like Blues in the Night) we played the song live on the Le Club sessions!
Very early on morning of Fri. March 5th, 2004 Igor and I met at Port Authority Bus Station and took the bus out to WBGO radio in Newark NJ. I was assigned to the task by Gary to bring Igor in time for a broadcast interview that morning. Gary was my initial connection to Igor so they are old buddies as you can see in this photo I shot outside of WBGO at 54 Park Place in Newark. I'll be returning to Moscow to play with Igor again this coming July.
Igor translates for Jon on Russian television as he speaks about how it is to be in Russia performing with Igor Butman. The power of the universal language of music has brought it all together, and Jon is explaining his wish to dedicate original composition "Soon I Will Be Free" to the peoples of Russia and the former USSR.