36th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 12-16 October, 2022

Vadim Neselovskyi: Odessa – a Musical Walk through a Legendary City


Vadim Neselovskyi - piano

In 2019, Vadim Neselovskyi, a pianist, composer and bandleader born and raised in Odessa, before the war in Ukraine, was asked by his agent to tell the story of his hometown through music, because no one else could do it better. The result is his solo album Odessa – a Musical Walk through a Legendary City.

“Almost everyone in Western Europe and the USA has heard of Odessa, but few know it. Some people associate the city with Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin (or rather the legendary scene on the Odessa stairs). For some, Odessa is the hometown of violinist David Oistrakh, and for others, it is an important centre of Jewish life in the early 20th century.

“I wanted to tell my personal story about this city. In a way, I am inspired by Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The great composer gives us a tour of an exhibition of his friend, artist, architect and designer Victor Hartmann. My new piece will take the listener on an imaginary tour around my hometown, filled with memories, historical references, flashbacks, dreams…”, says the musician, describing the idea and the source of inspiration for this album.

Unlike dramatic reality, Neselovsky’s Odessa Suite is dominated by bright colours, as he wants to remind people of the beauty and cultural heritage of his country. The titles of the suite’s movements, such as Winter in Odessa, Acacia Trees, Potemkin Stairs, and The Odessa Renaissance, are indicative of this. In the three movements of the work, the composer celebrates the life of the Jews of Odessa, and in the Jewish Dance he refers to a lullaby from his mother’s childhood.

Autobiographical moments are also captured in the pieces Waltz of Odessa Conservatory and My First Rock Concert. According to Neselovsky, the music on this solo album is the most personal he has composed to date.

The musician recorded the Odessa album at the Sendesaal in Bremen, Germany, and after quarantine, presented it live in a concert broadcast by Bremen Radio.

Vadim Neselovskyi was a child prodigy who became the youngest person accepted to the Odessa Conservatory. Though he began in the classical world, Neselovsky became infatuated with jazz. He went to study in Germany and then to the Berklee College of Music in Boston (USA).

The Odessan regularly returned to his homeland to perform. He began to be increasingly involved in the plight that Russia inflicted on his country. At the height of the Crimean conflict in 2014, the pianist led his trio at the Lviv Jazz Festival, and in 2015 at Berkeley’s performed a concert dedicated to Ukraine.

Influential Western publications have hailed Neselovskyi as one of the most talented improvisers. From a young age, the pianist realised that his vocation was to be a musician in the broadest sense, and he did not pigeonhole himself into a stylistic framework. He is a versatile improviser and composer of music in a wide range of genres, from solo piano and jazz trio compositions to symphonic music.

Neselovskyi’s works have been performed by such luminaries as jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker, vibraphonist Gary Burton and percussionist Antonio Sanchez. Saxophonist Daniel Gauthier won the important German award ECHO Klassik for his album with Neselovskyi’s San Felio. As a composer, the Odessan collaborates with symphony orchestras in the USA and Europe.

For the last decade, the pianist has been a frequent partner of his mentor Gary Burton in recording studios. The legendary vibraphonist included him in his famous Generations Quintet and became one of the main promoters of Neselovskyi’s music.

The pianist has recorded a number of albums with his long-time stage partner, multi-instrumentalist Arkady Shilkloper. Neselovskyi recently began collaborating with the renowned American avant-garde musician John Zorn on his magnificent project Masada, dedicated to his Jewish roots, excerpts of which were featured in the Vilnius Jazz Festival in 2018–2019.

Zorn invited Neselovskyi to join the project team for the last part of the Masada cycle, The Book Beriah. On Zorn’s Tzadik label, the Odessan recorded a duet with Craig Taborn, one of the most talented jazz keyboardists in the USA.

Neselovskyi’s latest album Get up and Go, recorded with a jazz trio, received a very favourable review from the influential jazz magazine DownBeat.  

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