by Ian Mann
April 17, 2020
Another high quality album release from Goloubev. The material is consistently melodic, balancing an easy accessibility with the inventive harmonic concepts bubbling just below the polished surface.
“Two Chevrons Apart”
(Basho Records SRCD 57-2)
Yuri Goloubev – acoustic bass, Tim Garland – soprano & tenor saxophones, John Turville – piano,
Asaf Sirkis – drums
Born in Moscow in 1972, but currently based in the UK after living in Italy for several years, the double bass virtuoso Yuri Goloubev has become a busy and popular presence on the British jazz scene.
Originally trained as a classical musician Goloubev was principal double bassist for both the Bolshoi Opera and the Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra. From 1990 he concentrated on his classical career, but following a move to Milan 2004 he decided to specialise in jazz.
Goloubev first came to the attention of British jazz audiences through his work with pianist and composer Gwilym Simcock. Other UK based artists with whom he has collaborated include saxophonists Tim Garland and Julian Costello, guitarist Maciek Pysz and pianists John Law, Alex Hutton and Maurizio Minardi.
In addition to his work as an in demand sideman Goloubev is also a skilled composer and this latest release is his sixteenth as a leader or co-leader. In total Goloubev has appeared on more than one hundred albums, both jazz and classical, with many of the recordings having been made in Italy.
Among Goloubev’s previous solo recordings is the excellent 2009 release “Metafore Simplici”, recorded by an international line up featuring Gwilym Simcock and Asaf Sirkis. Review here;
Goloubev and Simcock enjoyed a particularly fruitful working relationship and the bassist appeared on Simcock’s superb double set for Basho “Blues Vignette”, also released in 2009. Review here;
The pair later appeared on the intimate piano / double bass duo album “Reverie at Schloss Elmau”, recorded for the German label ACT and released in early 2014. Review here;
Both Goloubev and Simcock have a foot in both the jazz and classical camps and each has successfully sought to break down some of the barriers between the two strands of music.
Goloubev’s first solo release for Basho finds him leading a new group, but featuring old friends. The bassist has enjoyed long associations with both saxophonist Tim Garland and drummer Asaf Sirkis. His relationship with Turville, himself a bandleader in his own right, is more recent, and I think I’m correct in believing that the pair first met when working in a group under the leadership of Sirkis.
Goloubev has described the band as being a unit of musicians with whom he feels “completely comfortable” and that, together, they are able to play in a more “exploratory” way.
Nevertheless composition and melody remain important to Goloubev and this new collection of entirely original material combines strong melodic themes with rich and intricate harmonies. As a writer Goloubev has sought to make the music accessible, but without resorting to compromise or simplification.
When composing the material Goloubev always intended that Garland should specialise on soprano saxophone and he plays this instrument on five of the album’s eight tracks. As a writer Goloubev felt that the soprano was the most suitable vehicle to emphasise the melodic qualities of the material. He is also insistent that in his work as a bandleader he does not produce ‘bass lead’ music, regarding his groups as being collections of equals whilst maintaining an adventurous, cliché free approach to his own instrument.
Goloubev’s abiding love of classical music remains and the opening track on this new release, “Beethoven and Schubert : Friends?” draws inspiration from the former’s “C Minor Piano Sonata #8 Op.13” and the latter’s “Arpeggione Sonata D821”. Nevertheless it is unmistakably recognisable as a jazz piece with the leader’s virtuoso double bass playing immediately coming to the fore. Garland features on pure toned soprano and Turville, a supremely versatile and adaptable musician, makes his mark with a sparkling piano solo. The crisp drumming of Sirkis combines with Goloubev’s bass to give the music considerable rhythmic drive, most notably when Garland’s airy soprano takes flight. Like Goloubev’s earlier work with Simcock it’s another successful attempt to bridge the jazz / classical divide.
The title track, sadly all too apposite at the time of writing, again sees Garland concentrating on soprano on a gently episodic composition that sees the music go through several different phrases during its near seven and a half minute duration. The prevailing mood is gentle and lyrical and the piece has evoked comparisons with the ECM aesthetic. Indeed the album was recorded at Artesuono Studios in Italy with Stefano Amerio engineering. The studio has long been a favourite of Goloubev’s, perhaps from his time spent living in Italy, but is is also used frequently by ECM and has justifiably gained a reputation as one of the world’s great studios.
Goloubev has stated that he seeks to emulate the phrasing of a wind instrument or a piano when soloing and there’s something of that in his melodic pizzicato soloing here. Meanwhile the excellent Turville is afforded the opportunity to stretch out more expansively with a flowingly lyrical solo.
“Just Another Week” finds Garland moving to tenor as the quartet subtly increase the energy levels. The saxophonist exhibits a similar fluency on the larger horn as he embarks on a lengthy but lucid solo, underpinned by the discrete bustle of bass and drums. Turville again impresses with a dazzling piano solo, clearly reaping the benefits of recording at Artesuono.
It’s Turville who introduces “Dead End Date” with a concise, but gently lyrical, passage of solo piano. Melodic double bass and gently lilting soprano sax then combine on the main theme with subsequent solos coming from the leader on bass, and later Garland on swooping and soaring soprano. The latter is well complemented by Sirkis’ responsive, but colourful and inventive, drumming as the momentum of the piece begins to accelerate.
The title of “Cemetery Symmetry” is intended to parody image conscious musicians. Appropriately the piece begins with a kind of funeral march, albeit a very elegant one. Garland sits out altogether on this trio performance, with Goloubev having previously stated that the material on this album is flexible enough to be presented in either a trio or quartet format. Given Garland’s congested schedule this is perhaps a wise move. A lyrical mood of wistful melancholy prevails almost throughout with extended features for both Goloubev and Turville, and with Sirkis playing with commendable poise and restraint.
Garland returns, this time on tenor, for “Sweet Nothings”, a more animated offering that introduces itself via Sirkis’ martial style drums. It’s remarkably playful too, with an old fashioned ballroom dance rhythm, a military two step I’m led to believe. Eventually the music veers away from this as Garland begins to stretch out more expansively on tenor, before eventually handing over to Turville on piano. Stylistically and rhythmically the music goes through several changes; there’s a hint of Eastern European folk music, a dash of Goloubev’s beloved classical – and of course plenty of authentic jazz. The playful, stepping theme returns towards the close as Goloubev displays some of that “mischievous humour” of which the press release speaks.
“Elegiac” bears a simple and suitably descriptive title. It sees Garland moving back to soprano, his light airy tones complementing the leader’s resonant, but melodic, double bass. Goloubev takes the only full length solo, but nevertheless his three colleagues still contribute hugely to the success of the performance.
Goloubev’s recurring bass motif forms the basis for the closing “Parisian Episode VII” and provides the jumping off point for fluent and elegant solos from Garland on soprano, the leader himself on bass and Turville at the piano. The high melodic quotient that distinguishes the album as a whole remains constant until the very end, even allowing for a closing drum feature from Sirkis.
“Two Chevrons Apart” represents another high quality album release from Goloubev. The material is consistently melodic, balancing an easy accessibility with the inventive harmonic concepts bubbling just below the polished surface. As one would expect, the playing from four such top quality musicians is consistently excellent throughout.
It could be argued that with the focus very much on melody that the music is a little bloodless at times, but my main disappointment is that we don’t get to hear Goloubev with the bow. Having seen him play live with various leaders on several occasions over the years I can attest as to just how brilliant an arco player he is - and I’d have liked to have heard at least some of that.
However I don’t like to end on a gripe. Goloubev’s pizzicato playing is consistently excellent and his colleagues all excel in their various ways too. Garland is a peerless soloist whose talents have led to work with Chick Corea, Turville, one of the great unsung heroes in British jazz, is superb throughout and Sirkis, so often a real powerhouse behind the kit turns in one of his most subtle and nuanced performances at the drums.
Small reservations aside this is still a very accomplished piece of work, and as such is recommended to the majority of listeners.
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