Andrei Kitaev :
From Russia with Groove.
Ahmad Jamal once said: “he deserves
to be heard at the best concert halls in the world…
The famous Lionel Hampton said:
“…that cat really plays…”
Thomas Lynne, of This Week Magazine
said of Andrei’s music:
“Perhaps it took a Russian born pianist with
a lot of Rachmaninoff in his blood to find
a new angle on this material. What one hears
from the first cut to the last is not a rehash of
the familiar but rather a profoundly emotional
exploration of the guts and soul of these classics”.
All this points to a musical genius combined with the thirst for the musical expression only Jazz can offer, and with the gut-wrenching cry for the freedom to explore, develop and present one’s soul on the ivories of a piano.
What makes a young boy fall in love with the magic created by jazz? What causes a Russian to taunt authorities, to face fear in the face and to leave his homeland to pursue a sound, a voice that is calling to his soul, his heart, his mind, to every cell in his body? What goes on in the mind of a person who doesn’t speak a word of English, that makes them leave the familiar, the comfortable and embark on a journey with no particular geographical destination, but rather with a musical one? That’s what causes one to do the “Russia to Berkeley” thing Andrei did in 1971.
Andrei Kitaev was born in Russia where he started his formal classical piano training at the early age of six. From a family of musicians, including his aunt, a famous concert pianist in Moscow, Andrei felt the flow of music in his veins as he studied for ten years at. Practicing eight hours a day he graduated by performing flawlessly the treacherous yet majestic the prestigious Gnessin College in Moscow Rachmaninoff concerto #2.
The musically enterprising and curious Andrei became acquainted with the sound of jazz by listening to Voice of America at the age of 13 that culminated in his own personal attempts at duplicating the sound and feeling. The very first time Andrei heard jazz he knew he had to play it for the rest of his life. This musical exploration almost got him kicked out of his college only to be stopped when he agreed to no longer play the “bastard” sound from the other side of the cold war. Thus began Andrei’s love affair with that music that made him eventually cross over from the rigors and commitment to the classical world to the ever-expanding universe of jazz piano. No small feat yet for 45 minutes a day Andrei’s ears would tune into the radio, his only portal to the jazz that in a Homeric way turned him into a modern day musical Ulysses. And so he began to practice Jazz in 1978. During the first year of this musical journey Andrei mastered over 400 standards so he could sit in any jam session. At this point in his Jazz carrier he was earning $35 a week.
An African American gentleman in the audience one night heard him play, felt the power and fire from his soul and asked him to come stay with him so he could practice every day and hone his craft. In 1981, Phil Elwood heard Andrei perform and wrote a chimerical article about him in the San Francisco Examiner. He said: “warm and technically brilliant pianist…a truly magnificent addition to our…jazz scene. Kitaev deserves recognition”
As with almost all Jazz greats, Andrei’s beginnings were humble. Playing three nights a week in San Francisco, he had a pack of cigarettes, bus fare, and food for a day. But that is all one needs when the music one is playing and interacting with feeds one’s soul and the soul of the hundreds that listen to him.
Andrei continued his jazz journey as he studied chord structures and melody lines in a different from the regular approach of analyzing and memorizing scales and riffs. His focus was on freedom, poetry, making a beautiful statement with one’s notes, creating musical beauty with a special attention to economy of the notes used. Saying more with less became his trademark and he said a lot. When you say a lot with little, just imagine what can be said with a lot. That is Andrei Kitaev.
This unique approach to the orchestrated harmony between keys and strings is what has propelled Andrei to the worldwide recognition and status he now commands. Audiences everywhere recognize a special magic that is generated at his fingertips. Perhaps it is that raw strange combination of Russia and daily rowing a boat on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, where Andrei now lives with his wife Sonja.
Andrei has performed with may well known artists such as Eddie Gomez, Elvin Jones, John Clayton, Eddie Marshall, Lou Rawls, Arturo Sandoval, Freddie Hubbard, Dean Martin and many more, as a sideman as well as a leader. You can hear Andrei’s sound on First Takes, Reference Recordings, Yesterdays, Global Inner vision, and Live at Vartans. George Fendel, from Jazz Scene Magazines said of Live at Vartans: “My jaw dropped. Never had I heard a more inspired and let’s face it, brilliant Andrei Kitaev…”
This is Andrei Kitaev. From Russia with Groove.