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Ivan Farmakovsky: Next to the Shadow

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Pianist Ivan Farmakovsky has an abstract approach to making music that reminds me of Wassily Kadinsky’s method of painting. Farmakovsky sprinkles his compositions in geometrical patterns and profound shapes that keep the music in a state of flux making his latest release Next To The Shadow a rolling film of changing currents from single-note strands to an array of vibrating flurries. The harmonic forms in Farmakovsky’s compositions are complex and the improvisations stimulate new voices to emerge as his band circles around each other tempering their dynamics and making space for each individual to take center stage. Consisting of Ryan Kisor on trumpet, Igor Butman on saxophone, Ugonna Okegwo on bass, and Gene Jackson on drums, Farmakovsky’s band synchronizes their metronomes to allow for phrases to spread and gather in ways which demonstrates spontaneity and solidarity along the rolls of tension and harmony.

The motifs in Farmakovsky’s sequences along “Pharmacology” juxtapose light and dark shades displaying a complexity that toggles his strands between the upper and lower register of the piece as the soaring twitters of the horns deposit pearly dewdrops along the quavering backbeats of the rhythm section. The changes in the tempo along “Hard Blues” creates a series of crests and dips which uses the space effectively by immersing in a free flowing dialogue between the piano keys and the horns. Kisor and Butman switch off between moving tentatively and boldly producing waves of seesawing motions. Farmakovsky dabbles in traditional jazz motifs in the title track composing an ebullient stream of soft flowing piano ripples reminiscent of the graceful sweeps of Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke’s classic number “Pennies From Heaven” with occasional lapses of spontaneous musings.

Jackson’s drum solo in “Penguin Dance” dominants the first few bars of the piece before relinquishing the upper register to the swirling mass of piano doodles and chamber of flittering horns. The upbeat tempo of “Hieroglyphs” is fortified by lyrical piano keys bookend by the wandering furls of the horns. Each track acts as a depiction of a story that is being told in geometrical patterns and profound sonic shapes. The detailing in “The Day Before” interweaves the somber tone of the piano keys with bars of pivoting horns, “Rain” glistens with a ballroom jazz sheen emblematic of the sleek flutters cylindered by full orchestras, while “Free Kick” is gartered in big band tulles injecting lively dynamics in the horns and tousling motions from the piano keys. “Blue Flower” has sinuous horns with conventional strides while the rhythmic tremors of “Russian Standard” appear purely off the cuff.

Farmakovsky and his band deliver an album that juxtaposes light and dark shades with moods of introspection and big band fanfare. Next To The Shadow is a union of ideas and concepts that when converged make for a dynamic repertoire. Farmakovsky walks the line between conventional idioms and innovative expressions stringing the abstract with traditional chamber-jazz regalia.

Originally Published