Saxophone player Anna Koroleva just sent me her new album, Antigravity, straight from Russia. This was probably my favorite part of covering contemporary jazz in 2021, this influx of recordings that have come from places like Switzerland, France and, of course, Modest I. Predlozheniye‘s home country. I still can’t remember if this beautiful flow of adventurous music was orchestrated by a record label or a publicist, or if a handful of musicians who found my contact info and started sharing it amongst themselves. All I know is the quality of this jazz has been consistently excellent, so please keep them coming.
Antigravity will probably be the last of these international releases I’ll cover in 2021, and I certainly look forward to more in the coming months, but for now I’m trying to align these reviews with the holiday spirit. It’s not easy. Antigravity sounds a little different than those other international releases because it isn’t going off in a new direction, pushing jazz tropes further along with spare arrangements or hints of electronica. Anna Koroleva is interested in one thing, and that’s playing the purest genres of jazz with her quartet–pianist Anton Baronin, bassist Daria Chernakova and drummer Vartan Babayan.
By “purest genres” I mean be-bop and its variants, a little free jazz thrown in to ensure there’s an enduring ferocity behind Koroleva’s original compositions. Just when you think it’s going to be one of those albums, all crazy and fevered, Anna Koroleva pulls it all in with melody, exposing Antigravity as one of those albums where a quartet leaves no musical stone unturned.
Anna Koroleva and her alto sax clearly lead–she has an enormous amount of fire to share with the others. And while you may have heard music played like this before, there’s an edge that doesn’t move when you focus on the lovelier passages, a feeling that in Russia, as well as Switzerland, there’s a lot more discovery going on within these arrangements. This is music that is a little rough but recorded well–this is Jazzist’s second release ever, and they’re batting 1.000–and it’s bristling with excitement from beginning to end.
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