What's happening, Yuriy?

My new album …For Its Beauty Alone features David Binney, who also produced the record, on alto saxophone; Matt Mitchell on piano and Prophet 6; Rudy Royston on drums; and myself on the bass. It is all my original music and stylistically I made quite a deviation from my first album with the nonet. I used myriads of approaches and compositional tools, electronics, I employed different musical structures and forms and even made use of my poetry on it. The album is meant to be listened to from beginning to end as the composition and production set in such a way, that one track leads to another. I’ve been wanting to make a record of my own with Dave for a long time. He is a great player, composer and producer and, on my opinion, has been one of the most influental musicians for the past couple of decades.

…For Its Beauty Alone is a reflection of events that took place in recent years and the impact those events imposed on humanity. A story of an era, when political leaders become obsessed with their insane endeavors, genuine values are dismissed in favour of personal gains, violence is prevalent and ordinary people are thoroughly guided to take one side or another. Yet a few manage to find ways to treasure the beauty of life, to stay true to their moral standards and to resist the oppression.

How did you get into playing bass?

Very much by accident, I should say. I was in my mid-teens. I was trained as a classical pianist since I was a child, so my musical background was rather solid at that point. I borrowed the bass that belonged to someone who didn’t play it any longer, just to mess around with at home a little, and a couple of weeks later I was good enough to join a local rock band and play a gig. In about a month, I bought this bass from its owner and carried on with practicing and playing. I started to realize that I needed something more than just rock music, and that was when I discovered jazz and improvising music.

What was your first bass?

It was a very low-quality Soviet-made bass. We had almost no access to good instruments behind the Iron Curtain because there were no goods imported from Western Europe or the US, and we had very limited options to buy one after the Soviets collapsed due to the bad economy and the lack of funds. Just to give you an idea, an American-made J-Bass would probably be equal in value to the annual salary of, let’s say, a school teacher. My first bass didn’t stay long with me though – a few months at most, I made an upgrade to a better one rather quickly.

Tell us about any endorsements you have.

The one and only Moollon J-Classic IV electric bass, and UK-designed and made Barefaced bass cabinets. The Moollon bass is a vintage instrument replica built with modern precision – the selection of wood is superb, with beautfully made pickups and excellent playability and tone. Barefaced cabs are a work of art and produce a great sound with minimal weight.

Do you play five- or six-string bass too?

I actually recently made a switch to a four-string bass. Nothing wrong with five- or six-string basses, but I figured I like the “symmetry balance” of the four-string more, in terms of how I handle the range in relation to my musical thinking and so on. I also noticed that a four-string bass has different, perhaps deeper tone qualities across the range as opposed to a five-string bass – I would guess it has something to do with a larger neck, maybe a longer circuit in the pickups of a five-string. I also like the idea of extracting “maximum” from a “minimum” – the smaller range would probably encourage me to focus on and use different devices a little more. On the contrary, a six-string bass would constantly drive you into virtuoso mode, whatever that means.

Do you play slap bass?

I don’t. As a matter of fact, when I just started on the bass, I was doing almost slap only for a while. It’s funny, I’ve heard it somewhere and it sounded unusual and fascinating to me, although by that time in America and Europe everyone was sick of slap bass, in a way. The reason was, slap bass wasn’t really played in Soviet Union where I grew up – most definitely you couldn’t hear it in popular music back in the day and we were short of good records from the West. All my mid-school years I was a huge fan of the Beatles – very unusual back then, most of my peers never even heard of them. I loved their music, still do, but there wasn’t any slap bass either.

The secret of playing bass well is…

Listening to as much good music as possible without setting any stylistic boundaries. Have an imagination and approach the bassist’s role as a composer, so to speak, even if you play someone else’s music. It’s fascinating, but I realized that Marcus Miller’s Tale and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon actually influenced this last album of mine, in the sense of production, although at first glance, they would seem to have nothing in common.

Do you have shows coming up?

The upcoming shows for this project include:

Feb 19, 2020 at Smalls Jazz Club (183 W 10th St. NYC), with two shows starting at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. The club puts all their shows on air online, so the concert can be watched from anywhere in the world.

Dec 29, 2019 at St. Peter’s Church (619 Lexington Ave., NYC) at 6 p.m. w/David Binney, Matt Mitchell and Kenny Wollesen