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Dave White

Twitter: @davewhitewrites

Piter Jazz: Kvadrat Jazz Steamboat and Griboedov 7

May 21, 2013

On Sunday evening I had the pleasure of attending two new jazz clubs:  Kvadrat Jazz Steamboat and Griboedov 7.  This was the kickoff of the Kvadrat Jazz Steamboat season and the boat cruised up and down the Neva River with a Dixieland Band on the top level and a jam session on the lower level.  There were balloons, and champagne, and a great sense of  celebration.  Six of my fellow fellows joined me on the boat and a good time was had by all.

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After the Jazz Steamboat, Makbal and I journeyed to Griboedov 7, a “new to us” jazz club where Kirill Bubyakin was playing Saxaphone with the Grand Swing Quartet.  Griboedov 7 is another venue that features live jazz each night.  After two sets of playing some original compositions and contemporary jazz, as well as some standards,Kirill sat down and spoke to me about his work as a saxophonist and as co-director of the Jazz Philharmonic Big Band with Sergei.  Kirill is yet another student of Gennady Golstein…proving once again the significance of Gennady in the SpB jazz scene.

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Here’s a video of some excerpts from the Kvadrat Jazz Steamboat and Griboedov 7:

Peterhof Palace: The Russian Versailles

May 20, 2013

The Likhachev Foundation has worked hard to let us see this incredible city, including arranging for a tour of Peterhof Palace, just outside of St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland.   There are 150 fountains…all run by gravity and no mechanical pumps.  Incredible. The photos speak for themselves:

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Night of the Museums

May 20, 2013


On Friday, May 17th, I met with the graduate level playwriting students at the St. Petersburg State Theatre Academy.  The eight students with whom I met told me about their projects and challenges as playwrights.  Their stories and ideas are bravely connecting new ideas and structures with old traditions.

After an inspiring couple of hours I met with some of my fellow fellows to attend the Night of the Museums.  This is not the night when the displays in the museums miraculously come alive, rather it is a night in which most of the museums in Petersburg stay open until 6:00 a.m. and will admit visitors who have paid 350 p. (about $10) for a pass.

We found ourselves at Pushkinskaya 10, a block of artists studios and housing filled with onlookers, musicians, and some really fascinating work spanning the past several decades of St. Petersburg Art.  Here are some photos from there:







Gennady Golstein

May 20, 2013

IMG_1494[1]Gennedy Golshtein is one of the greatest saxophone players and teachers in      Russia.  He is also one of the most charming and generous people I have ever met.  Gennedy met with Makbal and myself at the Music Academy where he teaches.  We looked through photo albums from his five or six decade long career: photos of him with Wynton Marsalis; in NYC at WC Handy’s grave and Duke Ellington’s grave (where he scooped a bit of soil to plant with a tree in Petersburg in honor of the Duke); and jamming with musicans back behind the Iron Curtain.  (photo from Red and Hot by S. Frederick Starr; photo by Natan Leites)



Gennedy told a story about a baritone saxophone that a man named Friedman played.  Friedman had been exiled in Riga (in Latvia) in the 1950s or 60s and when he got out he bought a saxophone that was buried under an apple tree.  Friedman dug up the saxophone and took it to Moscow.  That saxaphone was then sold to Sergei, one of Gennedy’s students, who brought it back home to St. Petersburg.

I am honored to have been able to meet such a jazz legend.  The two hours that Gennedy spent with me pouring over photos is like getting to sit down with Gerry Mulligan or Stan Getz and have them share their stories.  Oh…and Gennedy also brought his dog, Lucy, who runs beside him as he pedals off on his bicycle.


Later that afternoon we got to sit down with Sergei (who was carrying the legendary saxophone) in a restaurant and hear what it’s like being an up and coming jazz legend in Petersburg.  Sergei is in his late 20s and is co-director of the Jazz Philharmonic Big Band.  In addition to being a player, he is also an arranger.  Igor Butman (perhaps the most famous name in contemporary Russian jazz) performed on Sergei’s latest CD (which I hope to find at JFC).  Sergei recommended some many jazz artists to listen to.  He also teaches at the Music Academy to support his art.  Sergei promised to meet with me again later in the week, I cannot wait to continue our conversation…

Peter-Paul and the U.S. Consulate

May 17, 2013

A visit to the Peter-Paul Fortress and Cathedral really gives a sense of the grandeur and history of Petersburg, as well as a great view of the city and the Neva River.  Founded on this very spot in 1703, it’s easy to gaze across the Neva and find oneself in another time:


The cathedral is filled with gold dappled opulence and is also the final resting place for the Romanovs and more Tsars than you can count on one hand and is topped by a twenty foot tall gold angel:



We toured the fortress as well as the prison, which held luminaries such as Gogol during more trying times in the city’s history:


Last evening all of the fellows journeyed to the U.S. Consulate to present our programs to assembled officials and journalists.  It was wonderful to hear more about the other programs: from improvisational video to graphic novels to movement-based theatre to museum exhibitions and books.  I’m honored to be here with such luminaries in so many fields.  The reception afterwards was luxurious and festive (I was interviewed for a radio program about jazz!).  It was a fantastic night and even featured a performance by the jazz group Kondakov-Volkov Trio.  I didn’t take photos, but here’s a link to one of their previous performances:

A huge thank you to the Likhachev Foundation, the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center, and the U.S. Consulate for this incredible experience.  Here is an excerpt from my presentation at the Consulate (excuse the abbreviations):

I am in the process of writing a play about an American jazz musician journeying to St. Petersburg and discovering an artistic home she did not find in the U.S..

If Moscow is the New York of the Russia jazz scene, then Piter is New Orleans…the places from which the roots of this music spring…steamboats, etc.  Researching the history of jazz in St. Petersburg as well as the past ninety years St. Petersburg history via historical events, literature, etc.  I intend to use jazz as a lens to view the evolution of the city and as a catalyst for a musician confronting her own demons.  My goal is to connect different eras of jazz, and the jazz musicians, promoters, and clubs, who shaped the individual eras to various events in the history of Piter.  As our hero encounters various types of music she finds herself in each time period.  The play will utilize jazz structures in its storytelling and also articulate what unique contributions Russian artists  have made to the history of jazz both in terms of instrumentation, the incorporation of traditional Russian rhythms and songs, and the desire to keep jazz moving forward rather than allowing it to remain a “museum piece.”

And here’s one “art-shot” of light streaming into one of the isolation cells in the prison:


Piter Jazz: The Adventure Continues

May 17, 2013

The city of St. Petersburg continues to unfold in magical ways.  The past few days have been filled with meeting jazz luminaries such as Natan Leites, the founder of Kvadrat Jazz Club in the mid-1960s (that’s the jazz club that takes to the sea on a steamboat in the summer time).  For more info on Natan from the St. Petersburg Times click HERE.  Natan told some incredible stories of his five decade career of making jazz happen in Petersburg.

Here’s a photo of Natan, Alexei (the current head of Kvadrat), and me:


We also attended the opening of the new stage at the Alexandrinsky Theatre seeing several performances and touring the building.  At one point we found ourselves on the roof of the building and captured the moment with some of my fellow fellows as well as Lena and Makbal (from the Likhachev Foundation):


Then the evening was rounded out by a visit to the Hat Bar where the jazz played until late into the night.  The owners, staff, and patron of the Hat Bar have been utterly generous with and I’m thrilled to have found such a great jazz bar; I’m bummed that it’s 4000 miles from Baltimore.


Russian Jazz Musicians Compendium

May 17, 2013

Click HERE for a link to my ever growing list of Russian jazz musicians from past to present.

ImagePhoto from the Hat Bar, St. Petersburg, Russia (5/15/13)


Theatre and Jazz in Saint Petersburg

May 14, 2013

This evening began with the theatre.  A breathtaking production at the Alexandrinsky Theatre of NEVSKY PROSPECT, a new work adapting many of Gogol’s stories for the stage created by five emerging directors.  I’ve seen theatre in the round before, but never in a venue this opulent or spacious.  It was a mentally stimulating…physically exhausting (for the actors)…and innovative production.  So many great ideas!


After that Makbal (my fearless translator and guide to all things jazz) and I went to the Kvadrat Jam Session at the Jazz Philharmonic.  As we entered, I was struck by the two women leading the band on saxophone and guitar.  Everyone was in good spirits and the jam lasted a couple of hours with as many as 5 saxophones, 2 trombones, a melodica, bass, drums, piano, etc.

At 10:30 p.m., with the sun about to set, we headed off to the Hat Bar, another jazz venue.  And who should pop in, but the saxophone player from the Kvadrat session!  I wish I’d gotten video of this one, because she could blow!  A killer band of consumate professionals, I hope to return there regularly.


I journeyed to Russia not knowing whether I would write about a man or woman…after tonight I’d say that decision has been made.


Lagging with Blood Suckers

May 13, 2013

40 hours awake…like it’s a full time job.

I will spend my night reading about jazz.

I will soak up the air in this magnificent city.

I can sleep when I am dead.

2 legs of flights on Air France lasting 10 hours with a 5 hour layover in Paris left me exhausted.  I tried to nap in Paris…no avail.

I arrived at the Ambassador Hotel and met the rest of the Likhachev Fellows over a fantastic dinner in a beautiful restaurant in the hotel with a killer view of Petersburg (photos forthcoming).

Midnight.  After a nightcap with my fellow fellows, I retire to my room and fall fast asleep.

2 a.m.  AWAKE

The hotel has not yet turned on the air conditioning, so my window was open and I can hear the rain and thunder…typically lulling night time sounds.

2:30 a.m.  Mosquitos ARE IN MY HOTEL ROOM!  Anybody think about putting a screen on these windows?!?

3:00 a.m.  Sleep is elusive.  Jet lag has always hit me hard and now…

3:15 a.m.  Mosquitos are dead.  I have survived.

3:45 a.m. and still awake in Petersburg.  Philip Glass…can you help me?

Sadly the hotel bar is closed…

4:09 a.m.  I will have to be Lost in Translation while watching BARONE-Y (that’s the Russian version of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND).

Tomorrow I am seeing my first jazz events…or wait, do I mean today?

from the New Yorker…

May 13, 2013

Imagefrom the New Yorker…