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Igor Butman

One of the most important jazz musicians to emerge from Russia, Igor Butman has long had a strong international reputation. Born in Leningrad (before it was renamed St. Petersburg) in 1961, he began on the clarinet when he was 11. While studying at the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music, he switched from clarinet to tenor and from classical music to jazz. Butman became a member of the Oleg Lundstrem Big Band in 1983, he spent three years working with Nick Levinovsky’s Allegro, and he soon became his country’s most famous saxophonist. Butman had opportunities to play in Russia with Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Louis Bellson and Grover Washington Jr., paving the way for his 1987 move to the U.S. to attend Berklee. He often guested with Washington in the U.S., taking several solos on his Then & Now album. Butman also worked with his own group (Rachel Z was his pianist) and with Billy Taylor, Walter Davis Jr., Monty Alexander and Lionel Hampton. His own albums featured Lyle Mays, Eddie Gomez, Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Gary Burton. In the early 1990s Butman moved back to Russia, although he has visited New York regularly since then. In 1998 he was a guest soloist with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra when it performed in Russia, and Wynton Marsalis was a guest with the Igor Butman Big Band. In 2003 Butman’s orchestra appeared next to the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at a special concert at Lincoln Center. He produced a three-day festival in Moscow in 2002 called The Triumph Of Jazz. During 2003-04 he guested with Ray Charles, George Benson and Al Jarreau. In addition, Butman is the artistic director at Le Club in Moscow, performing with his big band each Monday and presenting all-stars (often from America) on other nights.