Oleg Kireyev & Keith Javors – Rhyme and Reason


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April 13, 2010

Oleg Kireyev, saxophones
Keith Javors, piano
Boris Kozlov, bass
E.J. Strickland, drums

Russian saxophonist Oleg Kireyev and American pianist Keith Javors collaborate in a truly International effort, the result being this striking CD.

Rhyme and Reason documents the recent musical partnership of Russian tenor saxophonist Oleg Kireyev and American pianist Keith Javors. Keith remembers, “I believe Oleg had heard a CD of mine called Mo’ City Jungle. He got in contact with me, we were digging each other’s music and began talking about possibilities to collaborate.” The musicians have since then played together at many different venues in the US in addition to repeat tours of Poland and Russia.

Oleg Kireyev has been a major saxophonist in Russia for at least 20 years. He made his recording debut in 1989, lived and played in Poland for three years in the early 1990s, and in 1994 studied with Bud Shank at his jazz school in the United States. Oleg performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1996, winning an award for “outstanding performance at the 30th Anniversary Festival. He has since worked and recorded regularly all over Europe. His Feng Shui Jazz Theatre project combines together jazz with folk music from a variety of countries. “What has been really refreshing for me,” says Keith, “is that with Oleg, although he is deep into the jazz tradition, there is the Eastern ethnicity in his playing. He has a different take in his music and is a really sensitive player.”

When Keith Javors was three, he would play television and radio themes on the piano by ear. “When I was in the 7th or 8th grade, I was referred to a college jazz professor at the local university. After our first lesson, he used the money and we went down to a record store and bought Dave Brubeck Plays Cole Porter and John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things. I was immediately hooked by the expression and creativity.” Keith worked at local gigs while he was in high school. He earned degrees at the University of North Texas in Jazz Studies, was the first graduate of the University of Illinois Jazz Pedagogy program, and has been an influential jazz educator ever since. “Music is a gift to be shared and developed through the generations. Although I had a great formal education, I always had the feeling there were things missing, inconsistencies with the reality of really experiencing the music from the inside-out.” As a performer, Keith Javors has recorded seven highly-regarded CDs of his own, formed his own Inarhyme Records label (producing other artists’ sessions in addition to his own), performed at many clubs and festivals, and developed a personal style. “I am very impressed by his musical talent,” says Oleg. “I appreciate melody in jazz pieces and Keith touches listeners through his melodies and music.”

For Rhyme and Reason, the co-leaders are joined by bassist Boris Kozlov (famous for his work with the Mingus Big Band) and the always creative drummer E. J. Strickland. While Oleg had played previously with Boris, the quartet performed for the first time at the Iridium in New York shortly upon making this recording.

The CD begins with the title cut, which Keith describes as having two sections, “a shuffle in an Art Blakey vein and a more progressive ‘4’ section.” The melody is both catchy and rhythmically tricky. Oleg takes a solo full of his own brand of “sheets of sound,” overflowing with fresh ideas that the pianist matches in his swinging improvisation.

Keith wrote “Sierra Nicole’s Bossa” for his niece several years ago. On this relaxing song which has a slight Brazilian feel, Oleg’s playing is full of effortless runs that hint at John Klemmer a little. A highlight is near its conclusion when the ensemble plays a simple motif that results in some inspiring piano breaks.

Oleg’s “Springtime” evolves through several sections. It starts with some free interplay by the quartet, before a melody worthy of Charles Mingus emerges. The tenor saxophonist takes an adventurous solo over Boris’ rhythmic bass pattern and the stimulating commentary by Keith and E.J. The pianist plays passionately with the trio before a hard-boppish melody concludes the piece.

“Happenstance,” which means the unexpected things in life, through the spacing of the melody and the openness of the chords, has music that fits the title. The trio feature finds the musicians reaching beyond the structures to create fresh new music.

Oleg’s ballad “What Is Love” has beautiful long tones by the tenor and some majestic walking bass from Boris. Rhyme and Reason concludes with “Chinatown.” Inspired by a Chinese tea room in Moscow that Oleg often visited, this is an excellent jam tune in which to close the set.

Oleg Kireyev, Keith Javors, Boris Kozlov, and E. J. Strickland have created a memorable modern mainstream jazz set that also mixes together aspects of Oleg’s Russian heritage, many adventurous moments, and subtle unpredictability. It is the type of forward-looking recording that grows in interest with each listen and is a perfect example of 21st century jazz.

–Scott Yanow, Burbank, CA – October 21, 2009


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