Reviews

Roman Stolyar at JazzRu festival, Moscow, December 2004

Read the review of Roman Stolyar's last album DOTS & LINES

Credo of Roman Stolyar is fantastic, touching my heart! I admire the mastership on several instruments...listenen to music with tears in my eyes is a gift. Thanks to Roman Stolyar, you compagny and your friendship. I listened several times to his 'Credo', this is an amazing CD. Geert Verbeke, composer (Belgium)

Roman Stolyar's "Credo" CD is probably one of the most free-jazz releases to have seen the light on "Electroshock Records". Progressive, jazz, fusion, electronics, experimental, ambient, traditional and world music all find a way to be heard on this release, with compositions spanning from '93 to 2000 that prove Stolyar's eclecticism and talent. The Jethro Tullish flute along with the marked seventies' progressive art-rock structures, the freeform jazz improvisations of piano, flute and other instruments, the unusual mixing of the standard ensamble's voices, the nice electronics that lays the grounds for acoustic instruments' improvisation, the occasional quasi middle-age/new-wave/celtic tunes, reverberated lush atmospheres, the almost Zornish nowave bursts of energy, the cheap found fake sounds (bells, brasses, strings, drums), the cymbal-generous fusion drumming, the experimental overall veil, the female vocals and lyrics of William Blake are but some of the pieces of this intricate and sophisticated puzzle. As always the art work is simply superb but this time probably even superior to the contents it represents. I am not going to argue with the choice of the sounds if indeed it was a choice, but I personally wasn't to enthusiast about those above-mentioned fake sounds (maybe live musicians would fix that) and some of the prog-jazz-rock passages of this CD. I am into and around a lot of jazz so it's not a matter of genres. There obviously are several good ideas and nice parts in this CD (for example the first and third of the three-part vocal suite "Songs of the Seasons"), I just didn't seem to find the key to understand it completely. This is the Russian composer's first solo CD but I am sure he's got an extensive background in jazz improvisation so I will look forward to see where this new direction will bring him and how he will develop his newly found electro-acoustic soul. Marc-Urselli Scharer ("Chain DLK")

The Russian label "Electroshock Records" has chosen an unusual aesthetic realm that encompasses academic electro-acoustic music, new age/ambient and progressive rock. In the case of Roman Stolyar's "Credo", all these forms are represented, for better or worse. Hailing from Novosibirsk, Stolyar has included three works on this first solo album. "Credo RS" takes the form of a self-portrait in four parts, for a total of 36 minutes. The composer rummages through his eclectic musical tastes and capacities as an instrumentalist. The piece begins with a solo on melodica, followed by another solo on piano. Gershwin-esque passages lead to a full-scale progressive rock romp, strongly reminiscent of "Emerson, Lake & Palmer's" "Pirates" - all that in the 7-minute introduction! Stolyar plays piano, synthesizers and harmonium backed by a programmed rhythm section. But his original trait is to be found in his use of recorders instead of the concert flute. He displays surprising virtuosity. "Credo RS" moves through swing, improvised, and more prog rock passages. If it does go through all of Stolyar's defining elements as a composer and musician, it fails to truly make sense as a coherent piece. More satisfying is the vocal suite "Songs of the Seasons" (25 minutes) Written for and featuring singer Yelena Silantieva, this work remains resolutely prog rock from start to finish, hinting at Mike Oldfield, "Renaissance" and more "ELP". The "Autumn" section stands out, beautiful and luxurious. Silantieva's accent makes it hard to understand the words at times, but her angelic tone and phrasing largely compensate. Francois Couture ("All Music Guide")

Roman Stolyar is an amazing improviser. His piano style reminds me of Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett sometimes, then Prokofieff or Bartok, later. His synthesizer keyboard work is first rate, too. I like the synthesized big band sounds. Most of all, I like his improvisations on recorder which has an Asian sound to it. Robert Ehle, professor of College Of Performing & Visual Arts, School Of Music in Greeley, Colorado (USA).

Roman Stolyar's "Credo" (ELCD034) is a pretty radical departure for "Electroshock", but like I've already said, this is something to be admired.
Roman Stolyar is an improviser who hails from Novosibirsk and even in the sleeve notes you'll read that it's the man's spirit and the principle of coexisting within different genres that makes this album, or compilation, one for "Electroshock". Containing pieces from 1993 through 1996 (nine tracks) there are a load of jazz and classical flurries, indeed, at times his piano style reminds me immensely of Keith Emerson! There's no doubting that Stolyar's got talent, and his playing the piano should keep even the most ardent of critics quiet because it's a "proper" instrument! This release is perhaps the bravest that Electroshock have released as, like I've said, it's really a hell of a departure. The more I listen, though, the more of Emerson's influence comes through. If nothing else comes from the album, Stolyar's piano work is superb, and I do believe that the album's a sleeper, or rather, one that eventually grows on you. Incredibly different!
Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance", UK)

From Novosibirsk, Russia, Roman Stolyar is a composer and free-improvisational musician who plays a variety of styles including intense and theatrical jazz, classical and progressive rock. The music on "Credo" includes recordings from 1996, and two different performances in 2000.
The CD opens with the four part 35 minute "Credo RS", which is a self-portrait consisting of composed and improvised music recorded in 1996. "Introduction" is dominated by Stolyar's beautiful and expressive piano work which ranges from light melodies, to jazz, to Gershwin styled whimsy and intensity. In its last moments the music bursts into a full symphonic prog rock assault complete with Keith Emerson keyboards. I wish Stolyar would have developed this section a bit more. "In Jazz" opens with a recorder solo that would make Ian Anderson bow his head in respect.
Percussion soon joins in and playfully duels with the recorder. And when the keyboards kick in we're in full orchestral/progressive/jazz mode that brings to mind a more tribal version of Shadowfax. Stolyar excels at thematic development and at all times I had the sense that a story was unfolding. Then he launches into a Dave Brubeck "Take Five" bit in which the recorder and piano duke it out and we find ourselves in full band cool jazz heaven. Very high volume and very intense. "In Quiz" features more jazz piano that has that wonderfully theatrical Gershwin style. Really fantastic composition and playing. And "In the Reality" is a flowing symphonic electro-acoustic piece with oriental, jazz and new age sounds, plus seductive melodies and arrangements and head bopping percussion.
The next four tracks, "Songs of the Season", are more recent recordings by Shanti, the duo of Stolyar and his sister Yelena Silantieva. A melodic progressive rock suite with beautiful vocals by Silantieva. The music makes the classic prog rock transitions through multiple themes as it works its way through the four seasons. We hear lush symphonic keyboards, lulling medieval motifs in which Stolyar's recorder fits in perfectly. Kind of a mixture of Vangelis, ELP, George Winston, early Genesis, and hints of jazz. On the closing track, "Meditation", Stolyar reveals his more experimental side. Krafterwerkian electronics and organ create a robotic melody alongside recorder (both meditative and fiery) and symphonics, making for a very intriguing combination. It's a nice piece though the rhythms are strangely off-kilter near the end and the track ends somewhat abruptly. In summary, Roman Stolyar is a gifted musician and composer who clearly has a variety of stylistic interests, though the "Credo RS" tracks were the ones that excited me the most. I'd be very interested in hearing more of his music.
Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations", OH, USA)

Roman Stolyar is an inventive composer who embraces so many styles that to deny any blurs the single-minded scope of interlocking hybrids. From the opening piano strains to the "Introduction" of the thirty-five minute suite "Credo RS", it's clear that the piece meshes finesse playing and modern orchestral arrangements with an unfamiliar flare. Comparisons range from Keith Emerson and Vangelis to Lars Hollmer as well as from the Russian homeland. Part two, "In Jazz" is lead by recorder playing a forlorn folk melody that doesn't transition as expected, but that's also part of the appealing unpredictability. Pummeling drums signal a change into a free-jazz section before the mode gets anxious with an upright bassist providing a much-needed root. The closing section, "In the Reality" begins by tubular bells that meander into a modern classical segment and eventually into a Far East sitar grounded section. One wonders after completing this musical exodus, where does one go next? "Songs of Seasons" encompasses tracks five through eight and switches gears to focus on chanteuse vocalist Yelena Silantieva. She adds another creditable component into the knit framework with a vocal delivery not unlike Amanda Parsons from "National Health's" first lineup.
And "To Summer" rekindles elements of mid-period Renaissance Scheherezade album with effective song-based storytelling. Overall it's a wide array of styles that forges the final outcome to great success.
Highly recommended as one of the best of a new trend of modern Russian composers.
Jeff Melton ("Expose")

ILIA BELORUKOV/ ROMAN STOLYAR/ ANDREY POPOVSKIY/ ALEXANDER FUNTIKOV Ц DOTS AND LINES

ItТs extremely refreshing to hear music this good coming from somewhere outside the UK-USA axis that so often predominates in coverage of free jazz/improv. Of the players on this album, saxophonist Ilia Belorukov is the only one I was aware of previously. As documented on a slew of recent CD-R and internet releases, Belorukov is a great talent, giving his all whenever he plays, in contexts varying from the free-jazz/rock stylings of СWozzeckТ to the more inquisitive pokings and scratchings of the СTotalitarian Music SectТ (their album СWarm Things Vol. 2Т was reviewed in the previous issue of eartrip). His presence alone seems to guarantee that something interesting will result, and his collaborators on this album are also well up to the mark.

The album takes its name from a passage of Wassily Kandinsky, quoted on the back of the album sleeve. Kandinsky defines the roles of Сdots and linesТ: a dot is a rest and a line is Уinternally mobile tensionФ. Through these two figures, the artist can create a series of connections and СcrossingsТ which result in an internal language, at times deliberately obscured by obvious СobstaclesТ. Could that be said to describe what goes on in the music? For me, it seems to invite a more linear approach than KandinskyТs large compositional fields, but, despite the specificity of his artistic prescriptions, I doubt the musicians envisage anything so schematic anyway. Kandinsky or no Kandinsky, itТs an unusual listen, particularly for the instrumentation and the way this constantly shifts: none of the four players stick to just one instrument.

СAllegro EspressivoТ, the disc opener, starts out as a particularly dark-sounding piece of free jazz brawn (Belorukov blowing baritone sax over StolyarТs pounding piano), but the sounds descend into something more elusive, everyone switching instruments and gliding into a more meshed texture, a oneness. Four minutes in and Stolyar is playing left-hand piano figures full of tension, leaving spaces in between to be filled by slow drifting sax and muffled yelping trumpet, with the scrapings of (presumably) Andrey PopovskiyТs deychk-pondr. An intriguing instrument, it comes across, in PopovskiyТs hands, as somewhere between a guitar and a stringed percussion instrument. Thus, we have a sound that can occupy at once the scratchy high registers of a Barry Guy or John Edwards (and thus occupy the function of the dateТs absent double bass), while also gravitating towards the role of a Сfront-lineТ instrument. Ilia BelorukovТs playing in other contexts tends to be in a free jazz mould (though he is nothing if not diverse). Here, the music tends to have more of the spaces associated with free improve; the tension and complex texture building and twittering rather than the all-out noholds- barred screamfest. Check СInterlude 1Т for the delicious way the saxophoneТs held-in breath barfs (at one point bursting out to a cut-short scream) prevent release, before the guitar, suddenly, seamlessly, finds it way into a series of Tal Farlow-style jazz chords, over which hangs singing sax, and the performance ends with a period of silence.

СAdagio CantabileТ finds StolyarТs sustain-pedal giving his mysterious harmonic investigations an aural halo, a shine and shimmer to the sound that only enhances its ghostliness, sax and guitar stretching their melodic spirals over the constantly, gently motoring piano line in worried languor. The second interlude is again a duet, Stolyar now on recorder, with Popovskiy on guitar. The piece swirls round the atmosphere of folk-tunes, alternating between more melodic passages where recorder shrills out over undulating guitar strums, and passages of chattering breathiness and spiky guitar. СScherzoТ is far from rumbustious, beginning with inside-piano and low-toned guitar rummaging, with barfs from the saxophone functioning more as rhythmic disturber than Сlead instrumentТ. StolyarТs move from strings to keys brings in Belorukov for more linear playing (on baritone), and the music becomes more skittish, filled with the tension that characterises this disc, but with a dancing quality to it. Soon, however, the dancing turns lumpen and heavy, baritone and piano in a Bartokian motor-run which drowns under its own momentum as the music slides into Belorukov blowing over a watery piano backdrop, still constantly-sounding but this time more flowing, ending as the last few sounds hang by a thread over impending silence. The third and final interlude finds the baritone sax intent on unfolding a slow, linear discourse, at first supported by StolyarТs swelling melodica note hums, then resisted, with fierce squeaks. Stolyar moves to piano, again insisting on sprightly rhythmic figures that break up the saxТs course, as they both once more stride into the area of jazz/Bartok-tinged motorism; Belorukov changes tack, to chattering high yawping, while Stolyar pounds out a serious parody of sturm und drang romanticism. Melody drifts back even while the pianoТs rumble still dies away, Belorukov returning to the opening course, chastened, ending just at the right point on a melodica phrase that sounds initially playful, but mocking when it stops. The final piece on the disc begins with saxophone screech-hold over (once more) the dying rumble of piano chords, then moves down the СmysteriosoТ line with some odd, trembling СClangersТ sounds on ocarina Ц just one example of the groupТs desire to maintain a consistent variety, to make the unusual (but by no means spuriously СweirdТ or СkookyТ) their domain, even their raison dТaitre.

Overall, despite the formal constraints implied by the naming of individual tracks after classical tempo markings (Allegro; Scherzo; Adagio, etc), the music has a definite freedom about it, roaming over much emotional and colouristic territory, but with something avowedly introspective underlying even the most energetic passages. Watch out for more from these young players in the near future, which for them should be bright indeed. (David Grundy, Eartrip Magazine)



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