On November 14, 2019, Polish saxophonist and producer Sylwester Ostrowski and Russian pianist Yakov Okun released their debut collaboration EP, Russian-Polish Jazz Dialog. Two days later, they presented the project at Jazz Across Borders, Russia’s premier jazz conference/forum in Saint Petersburg.
Yakov Okun was born in Moscow in 1972 to a family when jazz was the household value: his father was the prominent Russian jazz pianist, Mikhail Okun, and young Yakov grew up listening to the LPs from his father’s extensive jazz vinyl collection, as well as to endless rehearsals of the Soviet Union’s leading jazz musicians, and debuted on the professional scene barely reaching his 20s. Three decades later, Yakov Okun is one of the most respected jazz pianists in the Russian jazz community, the first Russian piano player and composer to release his debut album on the renowned European label, Criss Cross Jazz (New York Encounter, 2011.) The CD’s liner notes defined him as a “major force in Russian Jazz since the mid ‘90s” who “is an individualistic voice, an important player, able in his improvisations to refract an entire timeline of jazz vocabulary in a cogent, compositional manner.”
Born in Szczecin City, Poland, Sylwester Ostrowski has three albums under his belt, the latest being In Our Own Way, (2018,) which was dedicated to the 60th anniversary of Dave Brubeck’s historic tour in Poland, and featured Freddie Hendrix, Dorota Miśkiewicz, and special guest Darius Brubeck, the oldest son of Dave Brubeck, who accompanied his father on the tour sixty years ago in 1958. The hospitality that Sylwester provides to artists, partners, and guests when visiting Szczecin is legendary, and most recently his collaborations have been with Keyon Harrold, Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center, and with the singer Deborah Brown; it was with her when Sylwester first met Yakov Okun, Deborah’s pianist of choice when in Russia. Internationally, Sylwester has performed at numerous international jazz world music festivals, such as the Jazz Sister Cities Inaugural Concert in Kansas City, MO USA; Szczecin Jazz in Szczecin, Poland; Jazz on the Dnieper in Dnipro, Ukraine; Yamaha Ginza Hall in Tokyo, Japan, Safaricom International Jazz Festival in Nairobi, Kenya, etc., as well as in jazz renowned jazz clubs such as the Blue Note in New York, USA.
The three tracks that constituted the EP were recorded in October, 2019 by Łukasz Olejarczyk at RecPublica Studios in Lubrza City, Poland.
The Russian-Polish duo was joined by two American musicians, the bassist Dominique Sanders and the drummer Eric Allen. Several special guests were featured in the three tracks.
Moscow Nights is the famous 1957 tune by Russian composer Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi, in a tricky modern arrangement by the late Russian jazz veteran, German Lukyanov. The featured soloists are the American trumpet player Freddie Hendrix and the Russian saxophonist Sergey Golovnya, who chose alto from his vast arsenal of reeds for this track.
Yakov Okun arranged for this EP the theme of the song written by the legendary Russian 1960s and 70s singer/songwriter, Vladimir Vysotsky, The Grief. This track featured Freddie Hendrix on the trumpet.
The third track is the Sylwester Ostrowski’s original, Stretchin in Szczecin. The featured soloists are two participants of the recent Polish Jazz Showcase which was held in Szczecin in early October by the Polish jazz magazine, Jazz Forum, and powered by Szczecin Jazz: the violinist Tomasz Chyła, and the guitarist Jakub Mizeracki.
In the 4-minutes project trailer, the participants spoke about their experience during the Russian-Polish Jazz Dialog recording sessions.
Copyright & Production: SO Jazz, Sylwester Ostrowski. Powered by Szczecin Jazz. The EP is coming soon on major streaming platforms.