Titanic For A Bike
Released on the Caligola Records label in 2011, Yuri Goloubev's Titanic For A Bike is the distinguished bassist's most intense and personal album to date. While remaining firmly jazz-grounded, Titanic For A Bike also dips deeply into the world of contemporary classical music.
Goloubev assembled a world-class crew for this album, with whom he had just completed an extensive tour of Italy and Austria, in long-time collaborators Asaf Sirkis on drums and saxophonist Julian Argüelles, and one of Italy's premier young pianists, Claudio Filippini, a new collaborator. Together, they form the perfect complement to Goloubev. Sirkis' restraint and unmatched sensitivity in particular stand out, but then one should be used to this from today's premier drummer by now.
Of the ten tracks on Titanic For A Bike, eight are Goloubev originals, one a contribution from Sirkis, and lastly there is one standard. Goloubev's compositions are outstanding and distinctly Goloubev, often featuring complex, advanced harmonies. Often, there is a distinct 'Russian soulfulness' about them, enhanced by the arrangements and playing, and in spite of the distinctly modern idiom, one is frequently reminded of nothing so much as the great Russian 'nationalist' composers such as Borodin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and others. Goloubev seems to continue this line into the 21st century in a jazz idiom. His inspirations are varied and numerous. Two of the compositions reference modern classics, the title track was inspired by a cyclist loudly singing along to the theme from the Titanic movie. Perhaps the most unlikely and simultaneously original inspiration comes from the simple four-note old Microsoft Windows startup theme, transformed into a work of genius in Bill Gates Among Us.
The solitary Asaf Sirkis contribution, the opening Sailing, fits the tone, mood and spirit of Titanic For A Bike to perfection. The standard Don't Blame Me in its new harmonic dress and imaginative arrangement by Goloubev does likewise and provides a very satisfying closer. Thus, these two numbers provide a kind of frame surrounding Goloubev's compositions.
As one might surmise by now, the playing on this album is just out of this world. Yuri Goloubev's distinctive, nay unique, 'singing' bass voice, strongly classically informed, seems full of that 'Russian soulfulness' alluded to earlier, so sensitive, sometimes bordering on the melancholic, and does indeed come across more as a wind instrument as was his aim. This seems to have little to do with the frequent use of the bow, as it also carries across to the pizzicato. Especially in his solos, Goloubev's bass is often reminiscent of a bassoon or tenor sax, here or there a bass clarinet.
Filippini's dreamy ivory work, which graces Titanic For A Bike on all but the title track, provides the perfect complement to Goloubev's 'singing' bass. One would hope to hear much more of this gifted, sensitive young pianist. Argüelles' sensitive contributions to the four tracks on which he plays - soprano only here - are not to be underestimated and again confirm him as one of the finest soprano and tenor players on this side of the Atlantic. His rich, warm voice is perfect for this music. Sirkis, who plays on eight of the tracks, is just, well, Sirkis - inimitable and unmatched. Titanic For A Bike sees Sirkis at some of his most subdued, laying bare the deep sensitivity of this deep, deeply musical, musician.
The ensemble work here is as phenomenal as the soloing. There is plenty of the latter, and as one might expect, there are plenty of extended, intricate bass improvs. Goloubev's fierce inventiveness here especially in his advanced harmonies is simply breathtaking. The title track, Titanic On The Bike, is for solo bass in its entirety and is a tour de force that has one gasping. However, Goloubev is nothing if not generous in allowing his collaborators to shine as well.
With the recording having come at the end of an extensive tour, one perhaps shouldn't be too surprised that this album has an incredibly 'live' sound and feel to it. The cover art of Titanic For A Bike also deserves singling out as some of the very best of the last two or three decades. Granted, I would not buy an album (or a book) for its cover. But this is simply one of the most imaginative covers it's been my pleasure to come across, especially in this day of the relatively tiny CD. Original and highly incongruous, one might be tempted to class it as neo-surrealist art.
From start to finish, this album couldn't be more consistent and, simply put, brilliant. Titanic For A Bike is moreover not merely compelling but utterly mesmerising and spellbinding. The spell of its beauty and brilliance, its sheer enchantment and delight, will make you fall quite hopelessly in love with this album.
Yuri Goloubev's Titanic For A Bike is an absolute must have for any jazz connoisseur. Buy! Or at a push, beg, steal, or borrow!
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