Founded in 1987 by Vladimir Zaremba, a professor at the Moscow Philharmonic Society, The Moscow Sax Quintet is an all-Russian ensemble of top-notch reedman, all well versed in the language of American jazz. For this live performance from 1990, the quintet, along with a stellar rhythm section perform for an enthusiastic audience at Northeastern Illinois University.
The set consists of swing-era classics like "In The Mood," "Four Brothers" and "Crazy Rhythm," as well as bebop staples such as Charlie Parker’s "Yardbird Suite," "Parker’s Mood" and "Donna Lee." The overall ensemble is rehearsed and as tight as one could hope for from a sax quintet. The precision and clarity exhibited on the burning tempo of "Donna Lee" is jaw-dropping. Other highlights include Fat Waller’s "Smashing Thirds," performed with flutes and clarinets, and The Beatles’ "Michelle," sans rhythm section.
Undoubtedly the addition of guest jazz vocalist Lyubov Zazulina on the Ella Fitzgerald scat "Smooth Sailing" was meant as a crowd pleaser; however, the resulting contrived performance serves more as a distraction from the concerts otherwise unfettered flow.
The disc closer, an astonishingly fast swinging version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s "Flight of the Bumble Bee," bridges the gap between two cultures. All in all, The Jazznost Tour is an enjoyable performance that speaks to the universality of America’s greatest native art form.