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About the Moscow Sax Quintet

The Moscow Sax Quintet - a group whose many feats include playing a cappella versions of Charlie Parker's improvised solos in five-part harmony and at breakneck speed - was founded in 1987 by Vladimir Zaremba, a professor of saxophones at the Moscow Institute of Culture. Born in Magnitogorsk in 1949, Zaremba was turned on to Jazz by recordings he heard on the Voice of America broadcast.

He left his home town as a teenager to travel with a group, and later played in the army band, before moving on to Moscow. There he trained at the famous Glessin Music Institute and has played with a number of small Jazz groups and with symphony orchestras.
     
Zaremba formed the MSQ at the Moscow Philharmonic Society, recruiting his band, for which he plays first tenor and other woodwinds, from the Society’s cream of the crop. The group includes: Alexander Boychuk on first alto, soprano sax, and clarinet; Gennady Pakhtusov on second tenor, and flute. Oleg Ageyev is on second alto and soprano sax; Vladimir Konibolotsky fills the baritone sax position, and also plays clarinet. In addition to this horn quintet, there is a rhythm section made up of Vladimir Soloviov on piano, Igor Shestov on bass, and Alexander Churikov on drums. The musicians boast an impressive array of academic credentials. They are also frequent performers at concerts and festivals, and their radio and television credits date back to the Soviet Era.

The modicum of fame achieved by the group in Russia did not, of course, translate directly into international recognition. In fact, it took a fortuitous string of circumstances to bring the MSQ to the attention of an American audience. The pivotal role in this discovery was played by John Garvey, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. On a trip to Russia, Garvey met group-leader Zaremba, and saw the band perform with a singer from the Bay Area named Margie Baker during a Miss USSR pageant. Displaying great versatility and originality, as well as a deep understanding of Charlie Parker's music, MSQ sent an excited Garvey home with a tape. Back in America, Garvey played the tape for Bill McFarlin, executive director of the International Association for Jazz Education (I.A.J.E.), who invited the group to the I.A.J.E.'s 1990 New Orleans convention.

At the convention, MSQ blew away the audience with a combination of virtuosity and synchronicity. Bob Karcy-president of New York's V.I.E.W. Video and Arkadia Records-who was in attendance, was so impressed by the MSQ that he decided to make their music available to an American audience. With the help of interpreters, he was able to record the band's concert performance at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, the final stop of their first American visit. The result was the Jazznost Tour. The CD is also available from the Arkadia Jazz label.

Long famous for their virtuosity in the classical arena, Russian musicians are not exactly at the forefront of the Jazz scene. But, if the Moscow Sax Quintet is any indication, there is good reason to believe that with the lifting of the Iron Curtain, a new era of Slavic Swing will hit the world stage.