NYC drummer Tima Volozh delivers a stunning and mature debut with Jubilee, paying homage to his mentors and influences while firmly staking his place in the scene.
Jubilee is Brooklyn-based, Russian born drummer Tima Volozh’s debut album which encapsulate the diverse influences that have shaped his musical journey. It features Paul Motian alumni Jerome Harris (bass) and Brad Shepik (guitar) along with Timo Vollbrecht (saxophone) and Noah Franche-Nolan (piano). The group came together in March 2022 as a response to the war in Ukraine, with Tima assembling musicians who shared his concern for the situation, leading to a benefit concert at Scholes Street Studio and the birth of the band. The album is out on December 1, 2023.
One thing to love about drummer led albums is the tendency to showcase the collaborative efforts of all the band members. Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band come to mind as examples of drummer helmed groups whose prolific leaders allowed their musicians to shape much of the musical direction, while fiercely commanding the band from the drum throne. Tima Volozh stays true to the tradition here with his quintet which, perhaps not coincidentally, features two veterans of Paul Motian’s groups in Shepik and Harris.
Jubilee borrows its opening statement from one of the greatest musical works of the 20th century. However, instead of a lone bassoon, it’s Tima’s driving drum groove that sets up the iconic theme from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – “Adoration of the Earth” – which is heartfully performed by tenor saxophonist Timo Vollbrecht. Tima’s bright reimagining of this material is an homage to his Russian roots, while creating a simulacrum of a ballet where Vollbrecht is the principal dancer around whom pianist Noah Franche-Nolan provides tender support.
Vortex has Shepik whirling around Vollbrecht in an original composition of Tima’s that evokes the mournful music of Kenny Wheeler.
Now would be a good time to mention that Tima’s relationship to rhythm doesn’t end with the drum set, but that he is also a dancer and a student of Capoeira. This may shed some light on the third track of the album, “Lá Lauê,” which Tima says, “is an arrangement of a traditional Brazilian song that I learned from my study of the once clandestine martial art.” Shepik’s solo on Lá lauê captures the aesthetic that his generation of guitarists introduced to the idiom: brilliant, dazzling lines set off with gruff distortion.
“Star Eyes,” a bebop staple, is reimagined by Tima in a modern style that stretches out the simple melody into a self-sustaining polyphonic poly-rhythmic mind game that the arranger plays with an ease that hides its complexity. With the melody functioning simultaneously as the odd-time signature bassline, this funky rendition provides ample room for the band to explore. Pianist Noah Franche-Nolan is featured here in a brilliant solo that effortlessly navigates the complex rhythms while Harris’s bass playing on this track is funky as can be.
McCoy Tyner’s ballad “Aisha” is performed with an elegance that demonstrates Tima’s masterful brushwork and the rhythm section’s ability to create momentum and intrigue in any context. This track, again arranged by Tima, features a brilliant bass solo by Harris, who manages to play the idiom of the electric bass and the double bass on his beautiful archtop bass guitar. Tima’s accompaniment flutters effortlessly throughout the piano and saxophone duet that follows.
“Mumbo Jumbo” is a tribute to Tima’s biggest influence, drummer Paul Motian, who was as much an institution as a musician. Shepik and Harris are both former members of Motian’s groups, and no doubt that was a major factor in their inclusion in this project. Vollbrecht, while a generation too late to play with Motian, has worked a lot with guitarist Ben Monder, who was also involved in many Motian groups. Although this tune is in fact a Motian original, the influence can be heard across the whole album.
The album concludes with a Thelonious Monk tune, “Evidence,” which here is completely reimagined as almost a new composition. This frolicking endeavor sees the whole band playing around each other, building tension until the album ends in its climax.
Jubilee is a heartfelt set of music that captures Tima’s unique musical personality. From the repertoire to the choice of musicians, Jubilee is a mature and stunning debut from Volozh which pays homage to his many mentors and influences while firmly staking his place on the scene.