10 portraits of Ukrainian jazz musicians

Author : Oleksandr Yudin

Source : 112 Ukraine

Here you can find top ten Ukraine's jazz musicians taking the role of leaders, organizers of projects, music producers, and jazz schools creators
13:33, 29 June 2016

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Ukrainian jazz belongs to the informal cultural practices. There is no infrastructure, systematic music critics, and no ratings. Therefore number ten in the title of this review is relative and conventional. We will tell you the story of 10 creative individuals, who have passed through a long, but their own way.

Dmytro Alexandrov: expression multiplied by experience

If you ask someone that is a little bit familiar with the Ukrainian jazz to call a few names of jazz musicians, he would definitely name saxophonist Dmytro Alexandrov.


Dmytro is one of the most popular Ukrainian jazz musicians. More than 20 years he has spent on the Ukrainian jazz scene. He appeared as a part of a Kharkiv group of "Skhid-Side," which now is legendary one. During his career, he has participated in numerous projects.

Related: Music for export: young Ukrainian bands abroad

He played on the same stage with many overseas musicians of the highest level, including nominees and winners of the "Grammy" (Kevin Mahogany, Gregory Porter, Randy Brecker, and others).

Another hypostasis of Alexandrov is teaching; many of his current partners used to be his pupils, and now they need him as a partner. It is not surprising, because Alexandrov, giving preference to acoustic jazz (straight ahead jazz), has a variety of his own styles.

Denys Dudko: unity of talents

Name of the bass guitarist of "Okean Elzy" band is widely known and needs no introduction. Fewer people know that Denys Dudko came to rock music from jazz. His first fame came to him when he was a member of the same legendary Kharkiv group "Skhid-Side."

Denys has two musical identities; he is a jazz bassist and band leader. From time to time, he pleases Ukrainian jazz lovers with his new projects, each of which invariably becomes a special event of the national jazz.

The specificity of Dudko’s music is that he never gets stuck on one style. His music is an original combination of a variety of musical elements: the avant-garde and free improvisations are naturally fused with the Balkan or Carpathian folk, and mainstream – with Baroque.

Natalia Lebedeva: variety of forms

Pianist, composer, arranger Natalia Lebedeva has spent 20 years on the Ukrainian jazz scene, and her presence is surprisingly diversified in quantity and in quality of the projects.


In addition to the mainstream as a part of the classical piano trio and quintet, she plays ethnic jazz (especially the Brazilian projects), experimental music, and has cover projects (such as jazz arrangements of songs of Zemfira).

The educational component of the musician is not confined to the academic forms, but has a direct continuation of the stage: creative collaboration with her student Laura Marty goes through many projects of Natalia Lebedeva.

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Finally, she is the music director and a direct participant in the children's jazz festival "Jazz O'Keshka."

In addition, Natalia Lebedeva is considered to be a classic jazz musician, which is quite and rare for the Ukrainian jazz style. First, there were the jazz arrangements of Chopin's music; later - the jazz version of Bach's music. Every fresh project is a return to Chopin.

This summer Natalia plans to issue a record together with the Polish musicians.

Kostyantyn Ionenko: dedication, loyalty

Professionalism and good taste are the main features of Kostyantyn Ionenko as a musician and a leader.


Bassist is a mandatory figure in any jazz composition. Therefore, the bass player with a reputation as a true professional is always in great demand. Kostyantyn has spent for about fifteen years on the Ukrainian jazz stage, now he continues to be engaged in the other projects too. Kostyantyn has his own projects: Kostyantyn Ionenko quintet and Deep Tone project quartet.

He plays modern European jazz with lyrical and intimate sound: reflection, meditativeness. Kostyantyn does not seek to come to the forefront, but he could be distinguished by his ability to create a space for subtle interaction of the partners.

Denis Adu: rebirth of the traditions

The first concert of Kiev Big Band was held January 9, 2012. Creating a big band is similar to the creation of the University. There are many conditions that come together: the enthusiasm of the participants, sponsorships, and perhaps above all, the musical leader with a special professional competence and vision of the future.


We are talking about Denis Adu, a recent graduate of Glier Institute, a young famous trumpeter, who has been able to inspire and unite experienced musicians with solid biographies.

Denis began his musical path in Kryvyi Rih in the famous children's orchestra of Alexander Goebel. In Kyiv, his teacher was Alexander Shapoval. So, Denis has inherited the tradition.

It is logical that after a while Kiev Big Band has become a big band of Denis Adu. Today it is a modern-sounding orchestra, in which each piece is an interesting drama, non-trivial interaction between soloists and orchestra. Earlier, the big band was forced to involve the American arrangers, but now a significant part of the repertoire is arrangement of its leader.

His tube (and flugelhorn) can be heard in about a dozen other artists’ albums. He is going to release two albums recorded by his quintet in New York with the participation of American musicians, - Influences, and The Key of W.

Alexey Bogolyubov: border expansion

For Alexey Bogolyubov, music means cognition of the world and self-comprehension.

His path in the music marked is continued by the expansion of style, genre range, accumulation of creative energy, which of course discovers new forms of implementation even out of the traditional jazz musician formats. He participates in quintets, quartets, trios, duo, recitals, and the music for films. He joins the performances with chamber ensemble "Kyiv Virtuosi."

Related: Kyiv and its musical twin town

Alexey is also known as an arranger, teacher, and music producer.

As a composer Bogolyubov is a wonderful melodist and as an improviser, no matter what he plays (blues, latin, soul, funk), he is lyrical, touching, and selfless.

Igor Gnydyn: Ukrainian ethno

The most prominent collective in the jazz life of Lviv is ShockolaD group with its leader, one of the best drummers in the country, Igor Gnydyn.

The group works in the style of world music, but it contains elements of different styles - Ukrainian ethnic jazz. These jazz rhythms, this polyrhythm organically grow out of Christmas carols. Sometimes it seems that it is Ukrainian folk is in a deep relationship with jazz.

ShockolaD is 11 years old. It has released five albums and took part in many festivals, not only in Ukraine but also in France, Lithuania, the United States, and in Poland (for example, Ukrainian-Polish festival Jazz Bez).

All permanent members of the band - pianist Anastasia Litvinyuk, saxophonist Mykhailo Balog – are independent creative individuals, generators of ideas and projects. Mykhailo is known for  his projects that combine jazz language and sacred music.

Efim Chupakhin: jazz maximalist

The way of many Ukrainian jazz musicians started in Kharkiv. Then they moved to Kyiv, joining the jazz community of the capital (Dmytro Aleksandrov, Denys Dudko, Alexei Saranchyn, sisters Marti).

Volodymyr Osypenko

Another graduate of the Kharkiv school of music is pianist Efim Chupakhin, Acoustic Quartet leader, one of the most interesting Ukrainian jazz bands of the last decade.

Related: Ukrainian festival in New York

The band often joins the projects of the other musicians. At the same time, however, each participant in the Ukrainian jazz scene is notable for an independent personality: Dmytro Bondarev is one of the best jazz trumpeters of the country, Serhiy Balalaev deservedly is considered one of the best drummers, and Denys Moroz is a rare combination of a bassist, guitarist, and harmonica performer.

As for the leader, Efim Chupakhin is a pianist with a very sharp and nervous style of play.

Alexei Petukhov: Odesa romantic

Alexei Petukhov is the representative of Odesa school of jazz, one of the leaders of the jazz community of Odesa.

He participated in a number of projects, his name often appears in the program Odessa Philharmonic - from the classic piano trio to chamber orchestra and children's choir.

The first time I heard Alexei in 2012 at a concert of American singer Gregory Porter. Petukhov was a member of the ensemble of Ukrainian musicians who accompanied the newly created "Grammy" award winner in a concert tour in Ukraine.

Related: International Festival of klezmer music unites Jews in Lviv

Improvisations of Petukhov are full of unusual melody, great emotional amplitude, and the integrity. His style of play, apparently, contains classical pianism and is riddled with a hidden romantic beginning.

Laura & Kristina Marti: the new breath

The duo of Laura and Kristina Marty is a vivid example of ethnic jazz in the Ukrainian jazz scene. Laura started her career with a Brazilian music group Lela Brazil Project, while she was a student. Then she became interested in the Armenian tradition.

Recording an album for the jazz musician in Ukraine is a complicated thing. However, Laura and Christina has two albums and two Armenian ethno-jazz projects in their assets, mainly with the author's music - Krunk ("Crane") and Chanapar ("The Road").

Ukrainian jazz really misses regular links with the world of foreign jazz. In this sense, Laura is determined in finding the opportunities that go hand in hand with the creative capacity for work and professional development. She is searching for the opportunities.

Recently sisters Marty presented a joint project with famous German trumpeter Hans Peter Salentin, which to be recorded soon.

Related: Russia holds “Koktebel Jazz Party” in Crimea without Ukraine's permission

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