“Jazz musicians must win the competition”, said President of the Authors’ Council at Russian Authors’ Society (RAO)


The Museum and Reserve “Gorki Leninsky” hosted one of the main musical summer events named “Jazz Seasons”. Exclusively for Forbes Life, the President of the Authors’ Council at Russian Authors’ Society (RAO), the artistic director of the festival Igor Butman spoke about his favorite albums, the future of Russian jazz, and the role of music in modern politics.

What is the difference between this year’s festival from a musical point of view and the events of past years?

“Jazz Seasons” unite not only famous musicians, but also provide an opportunity for young musicians to show themselves. This year they will perform on this stage along with the legendary jazzmen. Perhaps the brightest representative of “young jazz” is one of the best trumpeters of our time – Christian Scott and his team. Among the legends was, for example, the American organist and pianist Larry Goldings and his trio, a completely unique band: one of my favorite drummers Bill Stewart and guitarist Peter Bernstein, whom I met in America in 1991. The starts of the domestic scene also played. My teacher, an outstanding musician, one of the best mainstream performers David Goloshchekin, who recently turned 75, is in great shape.

Can you tell us about your favorite jazz albums, what do they have in common?

It is difficult to limit myself to five, but those first musical masterpieces that I heard in my life are perhaps my favorite.

This is the album of saxophonist Julian Cannonball Edderley, its live version of it recorded in San Francisco.

Secondly, the recording I heard for the first time on tape, then it became a vinyl disc, is a magnificent composition of the quintet of the famous Soviet jazz trumpeter Konstantin Nosov and Gennady Holstein entitled “Now The Time”, 1988.

Then, a live version of the Ted Jones and Mel Lewis album. And finally, Coltrane Plays The Blues and the 5th album – Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

I can name 5 other albums that are just as important and significant for me, for example, I didn’t name the Herbie Hancock record, which I also love, but this can be compared to choosing Beethoven’s favorite symphony, it’s impossible to say which one is preferable. All these albums are united by incredible professionalism, depth and energy. These are the best examples of jazz, style and performance in my opinion.

And what non-jazz musicians do you like?

The legends of rock – Deep Purple, from academic names I would single out Anna Netrebko as vocalist, of course, Luciano Pavarotti, pianist Denis Matsuev and conductor Valery Gergiev, Mikhail Pletnev, Maxim Vengerov, vocalist Stevie Wonder. These are people whom I admire; I know some of them in person.

Now music is becoming available on iTunes in Apple Music, on other platforms and services, how is this changing the music industry?

First of all, it allows you to purchase any music content quickly and legally, whatever you like. See how much music is presented on these platforms… just a dream of any music lover. At the same time, there are both advantages and a challenge: there is still a struggle for the listener, and I believe that jazz musicians should participate in this competition and win, prove that our music gives more than just a memorable motive: ideas for thinking, thoughts of love and knowledge, which is important for creative and artistic people.

It is generally accepted that Russian jazz is a rather local story. What is happening now with jazz in Russia, and what is its future? This year is the 20th anniversary of your Moscow Jazz Orchestra. How have the audience and the musicians changed?

Jazz, the same way as academic music, cannot change anything dramatically within itself, so every small change is revolutionary. The audience has significantly rejuvenated, become progressive, many young musicians appeared with great interest and ambitions, new festivals, jazz clubs were opened, jazz has become a part of Russian culture. And I am very proud that both my enthusiasm and energy have also contributed.

And our work is to make Russian jazz an equal part of the global audience – we organize international venues, for example, the International Forum and Festival “Jazz Across Borders”, we invite foreign, European, American professionals of all levels, we host show cases for Russian artists, many of our artists after these forums receive invitations to work abroad in Japan, the USA, China, Canada. Our jazz is no longer local; it is global. That’s why, we continue to inspire everyone to new challenges, because we have a global presence, they listen to us, and we prove this by the level of our festivals such as the “Jazz Seasons”.

Jazz as a kind of musical art has little to do with politics. Does music have a political goal?

Today I listened to an interview with Georgian singer Nino Katamadze, she said that it is wrong to believe that music is outside of politics. I think that any opinion has the right to be, even if so … Music should be in line with the politics of love, constructive, a compromise of reconciliation and understanding! We have the same future, the same joys and sorrows. It is through music that we can brighten up our emotional distresses. In fact, we all have one common goal – we must unite people. After all, art in general and music in particular, like nothing else, are acting in this direction. Once I was sitting at a concert by American jazz vocalist Shirley Horn, and when she performed amazing melodies and sang, I did not notice how I took the girl by hand who was sitting next to me, and whom I hardly knew, I can say. We sat holding hands until the end of the concert…

This is the political goal of music – not to disconnect. Artists should not refuse to perform and play for someone, on the contrary – they should play and perform so that people of different nationalities, religions, political views change their mind about their not creative ambitions, ego, fictitious contradictions. The task of musicians is to accelerate this moment, to help people come to happiness. Of course, with music you can even go into battle. No wonder they say, “if we have to do our bit, let’s do it with a bang” You can also live long in piece with music?