A Tenor in New Places – The Moves & Grooves of Ivan Baryshnikov

Ivan Baryshnikov 2

From Moscow to the Netherlands to New York City, Ivan Baryshnikov has embraced travel as a way to expand his repertoire and new ways of thinking about music. On the new CD “Journey” from his quartet, the song “Beehive” is brazen and busy, drums thrumming and speeding along, with a high-energy sax lead and a sweet and swift piano solo. “Moscow Amsterdam” – named for two places he’s lived so far – has a delicious groove and thoughtful melody. A lovely cascade of notes from his tenor followed by a heavenward ascension introduces a warm and generous theme that winds its way through “A Talk with the Ocean.” Stirring up the energy on “Moderate Breeze,” the quartet balances and supports the hook with skill, and each soloist adds his own perfect flavoring.

This CD is characterized by Baryshnikov’s amazing tone and softness, with a soulful vibrato he uses to turn up the emotion.   

Why tenor sax?

It all started for me with an alto saxophone when I was 10, but later, when I went to a music college, I switched to tenor because I wanted to try something different and not so popular. The majority of students played alto. 

What was the first jazz tune you remember hearing?

It happened when I first met my wife. I was 16. She played me this song, the first record with a jazz tenor saxophone I heard in my life: “In A Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington played by Sonny Rollins. The record was “Sonny and the Stars” and it had Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet, released in 1964, I believe. I am sure I heard jazz music before that, but it was a special moment in my life that changed everything.

How does the tenor allow you to express yourself the best?

I discovered that its range suits my musical voice. I also remember that I was singing a tenor part in school choir, which also indicated my preferences. 

Although I play soprano and alto and like how they sound individually, the thing I love most in the tenor is the deep sound I can produce on the horn and there is always the altissimo register where I can also express my musical thoughts and emotions. I simply feel that I have more power in the sound when I play tenor. And of course its lower register, which isn’t reachable on soprano or alto. 

How did you feel being featured by JAZZIZ?

I started to work with a publicist, Chris from Two For The Show Media, and received an email from JAZZIZ. I was super excited and happy that they featured me in the Song of The Day list and will also feature my album “Journey” in the fall issue. 

Ivan Baryshnikov CD cover

What’s the most challenging aspect of promoting your work?

To make the first touch when you are presenting new music. The same happens when you are presenting a new song to the audience during a live concert, when you are already super excited, but you have the responsibility to make the audience understand and enjoy your music. I love this process. 

What do you like about the classics like “All the Things You Are”?

It is a huge source of inspiration for me. I always come back to such songs to refresh my ears and discover new things I have never noticed before. It is like coming back to an old book, reading it again and rethinking it.  

What inspired your new album “Journey”?

The whole story began when we decided to change everything, leave all we had in Moscow and we just took off. We sold or gave away all our stuff and went on the road. In addition, my wife Elena was pregnant eight months then, and our son Lev was born in the Netherlands.

How did each band member contribute creatively to this CD?

I brought only lead sheets of the songs to the studio – the idea was to give as much freedom to everybody as I could, so each musician made a huge contribution to this recording. Above that, I asked vocalists Hiske Oosterwijk and Mark Evich to write their own lyrics with only the ideas of the songs from me, therefore the songs turned out to be so sincere. I am happy I had all these people on the recording. 

What’s most remarkable about your own personal musical JOURNEY so far?

Moving from one country to another really changed my mind and approach to making music. Before that I was trying to impress people from the stage and prove something. Now I let my music go from the heart and be genuine.  

What small clubs do you like in NYC?

I like many of them, but I have special feelings about 55 Bar. I remember it was my first night in New York City, I was passing by another club, but I saw Mike Stern playing there. I forgot all my plans and just came inside to listen to one of my favorite guitarists. I was so impressed to see him and listen to him playing right in front of me. After, on my way home, I noticed I was whistling a melody. That is how the tune “Mike” was born, the first composition written by me in NYC.  

Where would you most like to perform in the world?

When I was a kid, I danced for seven years, and our ensemble used to perform in huge concert halls. I now miss this kind of venue and want to be back in such places, but this time with music. And one day, I wish to bring a jazz quartet into this kind of space. 

Describe the experience playing in a library (bookstore).

There is a jazz club in Groningen, where I am residing now, that has a library inside: Literair Café de Graanrepubliek. It is my favorite club there, because of the atmosphere, thanks to the owner Max de Witte. He organizes great concerts every week, and events for writers and other artists as well. I love to perform there. 

How does your background, coming from three places (Moscow, Netherlands and NYC), influence your music?

Meeting new people and seeing other styles of living made my music different. Such an experience enriched my sound and compositions, and at the same time it was challenging for me. It was very easy to be influenced by other people I met in new places and to lose my personal identity and music vision.

But finally, I discovered my personal music voice anew and clearly defined the way I want to develop it. 

Plans for this second half of 2018?

The main goal is to make a presentation of the album “Journey” in NYC at the end of the year. And the other is to work on new material. I have already planned the recording of a new project! 

Other comments?

That was a great journey in my music life for the last two years and I believe it just started! I will be happy to share new music in the near future!

For more information, visit http://www.ivanbaryshnikov.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Ivan Baryshnikov.
(c) Debbie Burke 2018


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