How jazz gives you wings

Oct 24, 2014, 09:12 IST | Hassan M Kamal

The Igor Butman Big Band is more than just another Jazz band. With strong influences from his home country, in the form of Folk and Classical notes, the saxophone icon explains about his unique style of music

Q. You toured India last year as part of the NCPA Jus’ Jazz festival, as The Igor Butman Quartet. This time, you are here with a bigger group — The Igor Butman Big Band. What are your expectations from
the tour?
A. It’s my fourth tour in India. But this is the first time when I am bringing my orchestra (The Igor Butman Big Band). It’s a great honour, and fun too. We want to show our new Jazz programme to music lovers in India, and I hope they’ll like Russian Jazz!

Igor Butman (centre) performing with his band at a live concert
Igor Butman (centre) performing with his band at a live concert

Q. You are part of several Jazz groups (we counted eight), a record company and you also run two Jazz festivals — Aqua Jazz and The Triumph of Jazz; do you find time for yourself?
A. Adding to this, I run two Jazz clubs in Moscow, but still, I have time to practice and to play hockey!

Q. How is the Igor Butman Big Band different from other groups you play with?
A. The orchestra is the most sophisticated and also an absolute media to express ideas in Jazz music. It allows me to play Classical suites in Jazz arrangements or Russian Folk songs with which you get a new feel of music.

Igor Butman
Igor Butman

Q. How do you see your role in the Igor Butman Big Band?
A. I am the creator, conductor, leader, producer and just a musician, like everyone in my band.

Q. Just to clarify, are The Igor Butman Big Band and The Igor Butman and Moscow Jazz Orchestra the same group?
A. Yes, it’s the same group. My Big Band was granted with a name of Moscow Jazz Orchestra in 2011, after 12 years of successful story of my band.


Q. From where do you draw inspiration for your music?
A. There are no special factors. I travel a lot, meet great people and play music. All of this inspires me.

Q. You have focussed a lot on Russian Folk songs in your Jazz works. Could you tell us a bit about your work with Russian Folk songs?
A. I try to imply Russian Folk, because I want to emphasise my Russian roots. I want to do away with borders between genres and people.

The Igor Butman Big Band
The Igor Butman Big Band also called the Moscow Jazz Orchestra wil be playing live at the NCPA

Q. When you immigrated to the US, the Cold War had ended, and the USSR was on the verge of breaking up. How did the political environment during the Cold War affect music partnership between artistes from the two countries?
And how did that affect Russian Jazz?
A. I never felt that political situation could separate musicians. I never felt any aggression from Jazz musicians. I am sure that music unites, 20 years before and now! And these days, we try to unite people all over the world with our Jazz Diplomacy programme.

Q. Throughout your career, you have worked and played with some of the most influential Jazz artistes. How big a role did they play in your growth as a Jazz artiste?
A. They were my greatest inspirations and teachers. They were very motivating, and encouraged me to go forward!

Q. You could have picked any instrument as a Jazz artiste, so why the saxophone?
A. ...Because my dad said that with a saxophone, you can fly in music like a bird.

Learning the saxophone
Igor Butman was born in 1961 in Leningrad (now St Petersburg). He began with clarinet at the age of 11, but after enrolling at the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music, he dropped the Classical clarinet for the Jazz saxophone in his second year. Apart from learning from his teacher Gennady Goldstein, Butman surprisingly took unofficial lessons from nightly broadcasts of Jazz from 11.15 pm to midnight, on Voice of America.

Butman in the US
By the 1980s, Butman had established himself as a seasoned tenor saxophone player. After he immigrated to the US in 1987 to pursue a Major in Performance and Composition at Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts, Butman went on to play with some of the most popular Jazz artistes including Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Louis Bellson, Walter Davis Jr, Gary Burton, and Grover Washington Jr. He has been a featured soloist with the Billy Taylor Quartet, the Walter Davis Jr Quartet and the Monty Alexander Quintet.

On: October 29, 7 pm
At: Tata Theatre, National Centre for Performing Arts, Nariman Point.
Entry: Rs 300 to Rs 1,500

Go to top