On his most recent CD, Splashes,
Russian bassist Alex Rostotsky expands his musical references to encompass cultures beyond his native country, even though Russia itself is a country of massive regional diversity stretching from Europe to the Pacific Ocean and from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. Still, the Oriental piscine images on the front of the loner notes provoke curiosity since one doesn’t normally associate Chinese symbolism with Russian music. Perhaps the most telling track on the CD is "Saigon’s Syndrome," which doesn’t pay direct tribute to VietNam (as did, for example, Billy Bang’s VietNam: The Aftermath),
but instead adopts the energy of electric bass and synthesizer associated with Joe Zawinul. Much of that track is reminiscent of Zawinul’s recent release, Di·A·Lects,
which contains a similarly broad world view, musically presented.
Unlike Rostotsky’s 2001 CD, Once upon a Time in the City of Kazan,
which tread on more familiar ground with occasional allusions to his childhood in Tver, Splashes’
concerns are so
widespread that the contrasts among the tunes can be provocative at times, the listener not knowing what is coming next. For example, the first number, "Africa-My Love," consists of a trumpet voice above multi-rhythmic percussion. However, the next one, "Three Ragas," recruits Kishab Kanti Chowdhury to infuse it with an entirely different form of energy as he sings the tabla sounds in unison with the instrument itself. And then,
track 3, "The Bells Rang in Novgorod," involves a choir singing kaleidoscopically, European harmonies leading into another, mellower version of the tune pushed by Rostotsky’s throbbing bass lines and the prismatic colors of Eugene Borets’ synthesizer.
Rostotsky drops out of "A Fisherman’s Evening Song" so that soloist Zhou Qi can provide the necessary authenticity to the Chinese folk tale of a shimmering mesh. And once again, renowned trumpeter Yuri Parfenov joins Rostotsky on the majority of the tracks, recalling their work on Once upon a Time in the City of Kazan
(a couple tunes from which are repeated on Splashes.
) Most notable is their work on Parfenov’s "Erisha," on which Rostotsky backs up the trumpet, clearly articulated and harmonically focused, with repeated MIDI effects awash with splashes of irregular meter.
In addition to Rostotsky’s cultural borrowings, he applies synthesized effects for the textures he seeks. Splashes
is quite different from Rostotsky’s past recordings as he expands his musical mural still in progress.