History of Saratov jazz-band "RETRO"

This is a brief history of Saratov jazz-band "RETRO" which motto is "let the weary sun always say good-bye to the sea" (this is a line from a famous song УThe Weary SunФ).

The repertoire consists of popular dance and jazz melodies of the 1910-1940s, Klavdia Shulzhenko's, Leonid and Edit Utesovs', Georgy Vinogradov's songs and works of other masters of the genre. We play the original music of those times, sometimes with the help of archival composers' manuscripts ("Thank You The Heart" had been in I. DunaevskyТs archive for 30 years) without using electronic instruments, re-creating unique mellow timbre of pre-war jazz-bands.

We try to create a current of fresh air for many fans of music of that time. The fact that our veterans lack the music of their youth is half a trouble. Many young people even don't know the names of K.Shulzhenko, A.Cphasman, G.Miller, L.Utesov. Some know them only by the film "Jolly Fellows". So, without concerts and programmes about old good music they wouldnТt have a chance to get acquaintance with such a golden stock.

The idea is very simple. We would like to listen to the music of classical composers as it was created and performed during their lives: Mozart on harpsichord, Bach on organ... The "light" music of I.Shtraus and I.Kalman stood the test of time and became classical. The interest in their authentic scores is growing. But D. Ellington, G. Miller, A. Zphasman also stood this test. So, we should respect them as well and donТt take liberties with their works: just a little less of "creative enrichments", synthesizers and all that the masters would never like. Moreover, the history knows their arrangements and specific quality of sounding rather than their music. You know, the performance art is rather conservative. The musicians create their own emotional interpretations but don't change musical texts and in this way they pass on them to the new generation. Otherwise, the young might never get to know the living history of jazz. That is why "Livery Stable Blues" from the first jazz record of 1917 (with crow, mooing and neigh sounds) takes a special place in our repertoire, as well as the overture to the "Jolly Fellows". It's interesting, that at the dawn of our cinema-jazz there was also mooing! Our programme of American Dixieland comprises mainly records of the 1910-1920s. Our recordings are like УarchaicФ: without reverberation and with a very moderate stereo effect.

The band staff is 2 trumpets, 1-2 trombones, 2 alto saxophones, 1-2 tenor saxophones (all play clarinets), 2-3 violins, the piano, the accordion, the double bass (or tuba), the banjo (or the guitar) and percussion instruments. Our jazz-band began as an amateur quartet of former classmates. The first performance was in November, 1983, in Saratov cinema "Ekran" when a new film "We Are from Jazz" was shown there (we carried off its posters from the director's room as a keepsake). Later we were surprised by the coincidence: in our band and in the film there were the same instruments. What is more, they appeared in the same order. Now our musicians work in the symphony orchestra, in opera and musical comedy theatres, in the circus and in military bands of Saratov. There are only three "non-musicians" in our band: the quitarist-banjoist V. Baibakov, the trombonist-singer V. Uvarov and the pianist - me, N. Duhovnikov (we are physicists that is rather typical of jazz).

The band has been always taking part in jazz-festivals since 1992. We succeeded in good deeds: "A musical evening in commemoration of Utesov" in Saratov Philharmonic Society (1998, 2003) and in Moscow Scientific House (2004); the concert to the 70th anniversary of Utesov and the 15th anniversary of our band named "From Utesov to Armstrong" (1999); the opening of jazz season in Volgograd's musical theatre(2000) - the concert where just American jazz of the 1920-1940s was presented. In October, 2002 the band took part in the festival of Alex Batashev "The Russian jazz is 80" in a concert hall named after P.I.Chaikovskii with a programme dedicated to L.Utesov and then we participated in similar festival of Igor Burko in Cheljabinsk in December. At that time in December, 2002 a large programme "In memory of Alexandr Cphasman" was performed in Saratov Philarmonic Society and in Bolshoi Hall of Moscow conservatoire. Two scores for this programme were restored by Emil Geigner who was a saxophonist in A.ChpasmanТs band. Boris Matveev Ц a legend musician from Eddy Rozner's band Ц took part in these programmes as a singer and as a drummer in the band. On the twentieth anniversary concert of jazz band "Retro" in Saratov Philarmonic Society he sang a song "Five Minutes" from the film "The Carnival night" as he did in 1956 during the recording music for this film. The recording of this song from the concert was broadcast on the radio station "Echo of Moscow" at Christmas night in January, 7th, 2004.

In 2006 the band prepared a large programme for 100th anniversary of K.Shulzhenko and A. Cphasman and 95th anniversary of M. Bernes. There were all the songs which were recorded by Shulzhenko and Bernes with Cphasman's band. The programme was performed at jazz festival in Sochi and at the concerts in Kaluga (Music House), Obninsk (Culture House), Moscow (Pillared Hall).

The band had to set up its own multichannel studio because of the liquidation of the artistic editorial office on Saratov radio. The third CD "Day and Night" was recorded in this studio. The disc included recordings of a new ensemble of the band soloists (the accordion, the violin, the vibraphone, the guitar, the double bass, the percussion instruments). Then we recorded there the fourth CD "Sounds of Jazz" and the fifth one УMinor SwingФ which presented a new programme "Jazz Violin" about string jazz-bands of J. Venuti, S.Grappelli, S.Smith, E.South, E.Caseras and others. All band CDs were released by Moscow publishing house "Artservis". The band recordings are broadcast on such radio stations as "Ostankino" (in programmes of Alex Batashev), "Radio Russia", "Majak", "Echo of Moscow" (in programmes of Boris Alexeev).

30 years is a venerable age for the band. The band veterans went grey and there are many talented young. In general, it is like in L.Utesov's song: "In other respects, beautiful marquise, everything is fine, everything is fine!" AND IN THE YEAR OF THE 30 ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAND IT BECAME EVEN MUCH BETTER...

Dukhovnikov Nikita.

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