At a time of such turmoil, terror, and heartbreak in Ukraine, it is enlivening to be able to get a timely reminder that, from foreign shores at least, the lives and artistic output of Ukrainian born musicians continues to reach us from afar. “Rise” is the debut album by New York-based Ukranian guitarist George Grydkovets. He is backed by some of the biggest names in the Kiev music jazz scene with Dennis Adu on trumpet, Valentin Kornivenko on bass and Pavel Galitsky on drums. The album consists of twelve original compositions ranging from ethereal to atmospheric, adventurous and bluesy, with a beguiling warmth emanating from its core.
From the opening tune, “First Rays of The New Rising Sun”, it’s clear that we’re listening to a very skilled, thoughtful guitarist and composer. Grydkovets’ sound and style is reminiscent of his contemporaries Gilad Hekselman and Lage Lund, with a seemingly effortless nature of playing. There’s a well-defined originality coursing through the entire album, with “Rise”, the title track exemplifying the subtleties and feel with which the whole band perform. “The Land of Green Verticals” has a wonderful atmosphere to it, esoteric and bluesy, the music drifts in and out of its own luscious melancholy. Most of the album is essentially the trio of guitar, bass and drums, with Dennis Adu’s trumpet guesting on three of the tunes. I do love the togetherness of the core trio though, especially on tunes like “Crescent”, where the threesome perform with such grace and subtlety. The more upbeat “Blvd A.D.15” reminds me of some of the Pat Metheny trios from years gone by. Nothing is pushed or too obvious, the trio focus on gently yet assuredly giving life to the guitarist’s creative compositions. Rory Gallagher would’ve been proud of the grungier “Juice”, and the more contemporary jazz feel of “Hey You” and “Thomasovich” is created with the intelligent use of Adu’s trumpet taking the lead. Kornivenko’s bass takes the melody for “Escape”, with Galitsky’s drums just in the right place at the right time, allowing the guitar to pull in and out, giving the bassist time to produce a lovely solo. “Beyond The Sky”, led by Adu on trumpet, has the kind of off-beat nature to it that could easily make the listener think it’s an old Bill Frisell tune. Wonderful playing from everyone involved. The short but very sweet “Go For It” is a spellbinding acoustic chordal foray into the world of early Pat Metheny, reminiscent of the music from his 70’s ECM albums. The closing piece, “Transcendental” swims in an emotive, ambient pool of reflection. Beautiful.
“Rise” is an excellent debut from George Grydkovets, and one which most definitely marks him up as a guitarist to watch keenly in the years ahead. There’s a maturity to his writing and playing that suggests a real understanding of music in general. It’s great to hear a “new voice” on the scene, and I very much look forward to hearing more from him in the future.