Zhenya Strigalev ‘Smiling Organizm’ (Whirlwind) 3/5

Another UK-based Russian jazz musician has emerged following on from band leader Yuriy Galkin, in this case alto saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev who has studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The leader has already recorded several solo albums, this being his fifth which comes as something of a surprise. The line-up is mightily impressive with some of the cream of US session musicians such as bassist Larry Grenadier (integral part of of Brad Mehldau trio), Eric Harland on drums (Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran), the excellent UK pianist Liam Noble (Christine Tobin and others) and fellow Russian and obvious be-bop devotee, trumpeter Vitaly Golovnev. Graduating in 2007, Strigalev has experienced a wide range of musical exchanges and here all but one of the compositions are his own. On one of the mort overtly melodic pieces ‘Fairy stairs’ Strigalev features as a soloist and the influence of Lee Konitz is present (elsewhere Jackie McLean and Art Pepper are evoked). Some of the numbers are more challenging such as the staccato drumming pattern that characterises ‘Anchovies’ in contrast to the gentler brass acompaniment and Monkesque hues on piano from Noble. Trumpeter Golovnev excels on the opener ‘Fletcher’ while the two horn plays combine in Jazz Messengerish fashion on the brisk ‘Yaspin’. In general this CD plays very much as a live set (a deliberate attempt possibly) and, perhaps, some of the pieces need to be shortened and more finely tuned for a studio setting. This being said, the album does whet the appetite for a live appearance of this formation and a slightly revised formation have been performing in London this year. If Strigalev still has to find his own distinctive voice, there are positive signs with the open-minded approach adopted here and the future is likely to include an ambitous attempt at Indo-Jazz fusion which, from a Russian perspective, could be an event to saviour.

Tim Stenhouse