Jazz-Square (2000)

Yuri Yaremtchuk: New Music From the Old Carpathians

It happened that after the collapse of the Soviet Union the myth about Soviet “new music” has come to naught and this occurred not only due to political events, but also as the result of many musicians giving up free improvisation. Make your own conclusions: A.Vapirov, M.Alperin, V.Ganelin, A.Kirichenko left, S.Kurekhin passed away, V.Chekasin’s performances bear more of a theatrical character, where music plays ever smaller role.

That is why it is especially delightful, when a musician appears in Moscow with his accomplished individual musical thinking, who is not like anyone else and does not try to imitate anyone, unlike the majority of Moscow saxophone players striving to play not their own music, but something in the American style. The musician I’m speaking about is Lviv saxophonist Yuri Yaremtchuk. Together with the guitarist Alexander Nesterov they are trail-blazers for the new music in Ukraine, although recently he’s been working more with the actress and singer Natalka Polovynka and his two daughters, students at the conservatoire Nastia and Yulia. For this visit at the festival Deep Voice or Dangerous Vocal Cords that took place in November in Moscow cultural center DOM Yuri Yaremtchuk brought the quartet with N.Polovynka and his daughters.

On the eve of the festival a new sub-label of the Moscow company “Landy Star” —Jazzland — Russian version”, run by a famous jazz public figure Mikhail Mitropolsky, produced a CD the „Closed Mountains” featuring Yaremtchuk. I decided to speak to Yura about this new album and the new projects, which he presented in Moscow.

Valeriy Silayev: Yura, congratulations on your first album and since for some reason the disk is missing information about the project „Closed Mountains” I would like to learn more about its history and the meaning of its name.

Yuri Yaremtchuk: The name of the project the “Closed Mountains” is easy to explain. For the French musicians, who participated in the recording of this album, the Carpathians and Ukraine remained a restricted territory for a long time. Moreover, not only have they never been to Ukraine, they even did not suspect about its existence! Finally they had a chance to come to Lviv and then a Ukrainian participant of the project, a violinist and a vagrant Roman Ros, suggested to them Ukrainian folk music as one of the musical components. Since you can hear authentic Ukrainian music only in the Carpathians the French went to the mountains and discovered a whole new world!

Silayev: Yura, was Roman Ros earlier acquainted with these musicians? How did your acquaintance come about?

Yaremtchuk: In the old times there was this legendary Ukrainian boat Chaika (Seagull) which was used by the Ukrainian cossacs to go to different countries, to sell and buy things. In the modern times a bunch of Ukrainian enthusiasts built a similar Chaika and gathered on board Ukrainian writers, philosophers, musicians, artists. Following the example of the historical cossacks , they started sailing from country to country, although they did not engage in trade, but brought with them Ukrainian culture, access to which was earlier closed. I don’t know an exact itinerary of this boat, but I know they reached Brest, where they disembarked and it was in Brest that Roman Ros won everyone’s heart with his violin play.

Silayev: Could you tell me, if Ros is exclusively an ethnic musician?

Yaremtchuk: No, he is so mixed up. He is a Western Ukrainian ethnically and that’s why he is very good at the Carpathian folklore. Anyway, at the time they had maritime festival in Brest with actors, poets and musicians participating in it. One of the French participants was an outstanding bass-clarinet player Christophe Rocher and Roman Ros played with him at this festival, which eventually led to our joint project.

Christophe has a friend, a saxophonist Jean Quillivic, who plays every instrument in the reed family. Roman Ros invited these two musicians to Lviv, where they performed in the art gallery Dzyga. At first Rocher and Quillivic performed as a duet, and then Lviv musicians joined in. Roman Ros bumbed into me at the time and invited to play together with the French in order to maintain reputation of Lviv. So I went there and played at jam session and then played a full-length concert of spontaneous music with the French!

After the concert we came over to my place, drank some wine and Christophe Rocher asked me several times if I would participate in a joint project. I answered several times: “Yes! Yes! Yes!” It was in 1998. About half a year later, the French sent us an invitation and we went to Brest, where we started rehearsing and then recorded this album! It was an extremely interesting work. We had to leave right after we’d recorded the album and did not even have a chance to listen to a final polished version, since our visas expired. But in the year 2000 we came to Brest once again to present a concert version of the material we’d recorded.

Silayev: Was this a kind of promotion of the album that had not come out yet?

Yaremtchuk: Yes, you could say so. We performed in one of the most prestigious halls in Brest – Quartz. Another wonderful band performed at this concert – the New Quintet that featured guitarists Christian Escoude and Django Reinhardt’s son – Babik Reinhardt.

Silayev: I did not realize that Django’s son is a jazzman! How does he cope with keeping his Dad’s rep?

Yaremtchuk: He’s doing just fine! Their performance was awesome: they played this modern variant of the band Hot Club de France! Hot, string, swing music!

While we played the program which we’d recorded. The audience received us really well. Later we performed at the festival of the contemporary music. The director of this festival is my partner in the Closed Mountains Christophe Rocher, who is fully dedicated to the new music. Many important musicians such as the professor of Paris conservatoire percussion player Ramon Lopez, saxophonists Michel Doneda, Daunik Lazro, English double bass player Paul Rodgers attended this festival! Paul Rodgers was one of the brightest musicians at this festival. There were other musicians there, who are less known here but interesting all the same: a singer Pascale Labbe, electroacoustic player from Nantes Christophe Atavi, electroacoustic player from Brest Djarma. I was delighted.

Besides we performed at a cinematheque, where we accompanied the screening of the documentary about life in the province of Bretagne. We played spontaneously! In general Bretagne has the ultimate cultural life!

Silayev: Is your project going to have any continuation?

Yaremtchuk: I tried to arrange a performance for the project in Ukraine, applied to the Kyiv office of the Renaissance foundation, but they refused to give any money explaining that the project’s ratings are not high enough. While I dreamt to record a second album of this project and include ethnic Ukrainian music in it with the recording of the real Hutsul people and video recordings of the Carpathian landscapes… I still hope for the continuation and keep in touch with the French, while Lviv Union of the composers has promised to sponsor their visit to Ukraine.

Silayev: Yura, could you tell now about this new project you brought to Moscow!

Yaremtchuk: I had “love at first sight” with N.Polovynka, I mean musical love. We attended the Days of Ukrainian culture in Krakow, where I performed with my trio a jazz program. Lviv actors were curious to find out what kind of musicians from Lviv can perform side by side with them. After our performance Natalka Polovynka came up to me; she was dumbstruck because the music we performed seems so close to her. Later, already in Lviv that was exactly what she told me: “This is mine!”

Gradually we started working together. As the result the whole performance was born. In “Iomo Ludens” Natalka performs a dramatic role, living a life of a woman in all its aspects: love, grief, joy… I created a peculiar sound background on my instruments, being in this way also involved in this dramaturgy. Working on this project I found the way to bring in my children. I have two daughters: Anastasia plays the flute and Yulia plays the piano; they are both students at Lviv conservatoire! I gave them a lot in term of contemporary musical thinking, they learned to improvise, treat sound gaps with care, as they play an enormous role in contemporary music. Both girls come from good classical school, that’s why bringing them into our duet I knew they would not disrupt already evolved structure, but only adorn and enrich it with new sound images.

We performed with this quartet for the first time earlier this year at the festival Golden Lion, creating a peculiar concert-performance. The responses were really good, after the concert various people approached us and thanked us. Then we received an invitation to the voice festival from Nikolai Dmitriev, and we prepared a new program for it, meant specifically for Natalka Polovynka’s voice and based on Ukrainian folklore. This program differs from what we’d shown at Golden Lion. We’ve gathered folklore material and added strikingly contemporary instrumental background, which is more characterisitc of today’s classical music rather than jazz. Judging by the response of the Moscow viewers they liked our program. That’s practically all.

Silayev: Yura, thank you for the conversation. Once again my congratulations on your album and let it be just the beginning, moreover Landy Star company already has one of your interesting recordings in its portfolio, which includes your duets with different musicians. I also wish you new interesting concerts not only in Moscow but in other cities of the former Soviet Union! Good luck!

Valeriy Silayev

Jazz-Square #9 (32) 2000, Page 32-33.

Translated by Sofia Skachko.

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