TCHAIKOVSKY-ZHILIN: The Seasons (8 of the 12 seasons) – Sergey Zhilin, piano solo and with his trio – Melodiya #365 vinyl [7/8/14] (Distr. by Naxos) ****:
Many big bands in the ‘30s and ‘40s did their jazzed-up versions of famous classical themes, and people like Alec Wilder and Raymond Scott mixed classical and jazz in their own ways. In the ‘30s the Russian band Leonid Utyosovs played some jazzed-up version of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. There was also the Third Stream movement in the U.S. in the ‘70s, but that was a rather different thing, now having a sort of rebirth in compositions with a strong jazz slant. Jacques Loussier made an entire career on his jazz improvisations on the music of Bach.
Yuri Markin has reworked eight of the 12 Tchaikovsky Seasons here, and as you can see by the TrackList below, with the original subtitles. Two of the eight are for solo piano and the Sergey Zhilin Trio is heard on the six others. The eight original piano pieces are rather simple and straightforward, but they are capable of musical development with interesting harmonic language. Adding the rhythmic impulse of jazz and standard jazz chords makes them into sometimes surprising little numbers.
It is also interesting that Melodiya, the longtime Soviet record label, has chosen this album for release only on vinyl. The sonics are excellent without being especially demo quality. Incidentally, the general sonics of all the recent Melodiya CDs has been greatly improved over that of the Soviet era, even of the reissues of historical recordings.
TrackList:Side A – December, Christmastide January, At the Fireside June, Barcarolle March, Song of the Lark Side B – October, Autumn Song April, Snowdrop February, Carnival November, Troika