Tenor saxophonist, bandleader and entrepreneur Igor Butman occupies a unique place in Russian jazz circles for his considerable musical skills, media visibility and savvy political connections. The St. Petersburg-born Berklee graduate is not only recognized as the most famous Russian jazz musician in the world today, he also runs a successful record label, operates two jazz clubs and provides artistic direction for a jazz festival.
Butman is in a particularly productive period right now. Last October he celebrated his 50th birthday in Moscow with a gala concert featuring his Orchestra with special guests Wynton Marsalis, Natalie Cole, Billy Cobham and Christian McBride. In February, he presented the 12th annual Triumph of Jazz Festival in Moscow, and his label, Butman Music, has several new releases-the most notable being Sheherazade’s Tales, a crossover concert recording featuring the Butman Orchestra plus special guests including Peter Bernstein on guitar and Sean Jones on trumpet. With the exception of “Caravan” the repertoire is all Russian, highlighted by a contemporary, backbeat-driven “Dark Eyes” with dazzling solos from the sax section, and the ambitious recasting of Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1888 masterpiece, “Scheherazade.” All of the music is brilliantly arranged by Butman’s former employer, Nick Levinovsky.