The title of Tima Volozh’s debut album Jubilee implies that a major celebration is happening – and in the case of the Russian born, NYC based drummer’s emergence as a recording artist, it’s as much about showcasing the depth and versatility of his own vast artistry as sharing his passion for different styles of music and his multitude of essential influences.
Coming together organically as an offshoot of a benefit concert he organized in March 2022 in response to the war in Ukraine, the 7-song project is not fashioned as a tribute to primary inspiration Paul Motian, but the late legendary drummer’s spirit and energy – rooted in the revolutionary role he played in freeing jazz drummers from strict time keeping while playing with the likes of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett – is present in many ways.
While researching Motian’s music as part of his master’s thesis at NYU, he interacted with guitarist Brad Shepik and bassist Jerome Harris, who were key members of Motian’s various groups. The two form the core of Volozh’s ensemble here, along with pianist Noah Franche-Nolan and saxophonist Timo Volbrecht.
The drummer’s hypnotic, polyrhythmic freewheeling interpretation of Motian’s “Mumbo Jumbo” features Shepik’s mesmerizing fuzzy electric guitar improvisation after a whimsical solo by Volbrecht. Reflective of Volozh’s ability to draw wondrously and adventurously from disparate muses, he includes a lovely, soulful meditation on McCoy Tyner’s ballad “Aisha” and a spacious, moody deep dive into and re-imagining of Thelonious Monk’s offbeat “Evidence” – yet he also tips his cap to a youth growing up around Western Classical and Baroque musicians in his family via his opening number “Adoration of the Earth.”
The densely percussive yet also lyrical and free-flowing track is his fresh arrangement of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”; his opening bars feature the click and boom of his drums rather than the single bassoon which launches the traditional piece. Another Jubilee gem that speaks to Volozh’s “musical citizen of the world” aesthetic is the traditional Brazilian piece “La Laue,” inspired in part by the drummer’s studies of salsa and the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoera. Its otherworldly drum-piano swirl at the start is followed by a shift in tempos, more bustling percussion and fiery solos by Volbrecht and Shepik.
No creative expression by Volozh would be complete without a piece inspired by his mentor Ari Hoenig – achieved emphatically with a sly, punchy arrangement of the bebop standard “Star Eyes” rooted in the Charlie Parker version of the song.