Vlad Girshevich performs at the Windham Chamber Music Festival on January 13. Image provided.
Some may think that jazz pianist Vlad Girshevich is attempting to carbon-copy musical peers such as Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, or Thelonious Monk. Others may argue that he's doing his own personal thing and doing it with depth and command. It's that age-old argument of who consciously or subconsciously mirrors who.
"To be compared to those guys is an honor," says Girshevich. "They are my inspirations, especially Keith. I wouldn't like to be compared, though. I'd like to think I've passed that phase, although people always compare everything anyway."
Regardless of what his predecessors have done, Girshevich possesses a high level of stylistic virtuosity that can compete with any bigger name. His technique ranges from the fitful, breakneck finger-Olympics on more adventurous tunes to the warm and introspective, melancholic playing of more delicate ones.
The 31-year-old Uzbekistan-born Girshevich is a graduate of the Uspensky School of Music, a top-notch institution in the former Soviet Union where he studied classical music for 11 years. After two years at the Tashkent Conservatory, the pianist emigrated as a refugee in 1995 and set up residence in Denver, Colorado. While working in Aspen, he was asked to perform at a party for Aspen's Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz's Jazz Aspen Snowmass, a gig he willingly accepted with his trio once he learned that the legendary Herbie Hancock would be there. Hancock immediately took notice.
"Herbie was very nice and later contacted me with an offer [of scholarship] to participate in a summer program for the Thelonious Monk Institute [of Jazz]." Girshevich is one of the most in-demand musicians in the Southwest. He performs with the well-known Colorado band Alive On Arrival (www.aoaband.com), an eclectic quintet that plays acid jazz, rock, blues, funk, pop, standards, and classic hits on sax, keyboards, bass, and drums. For the past four years, he's played what he calls his regular gig, a five-hour set with a saxophonist. When time permits, he teaches jazz and classical piano to students at his home.
After recording two albums in Uzbekistan, he has released five more since moving to the United States and performed with artists such as Michael Waldrop, Tom Ball, and Greg Gisbert. His Solo Piano Live CD was recorded at the 2004 Santa Fe Jazz Festival, where he was one of the featured players, along with Michael Brecker, Gary Burton, Dave Holland, Eliane Elias, and Arturo Sandoval.
Vlad Girshevich will make his East Coast debut with a solo recital at the Windham Chamber Music Festival on January 13 at 8pm, at the Windham Civic and Performing Arts Center, Main and Church streets. The festival is being presented in partnership with the Catskill Mountain Foundation, and Girshevich's performance kicks off the 2007 Windham Chamber Music Festival's 10th Anniversary Season. Admission includes a post-concert reception at the Windham Fine Arts Gallery, across the street from the center. (518) 678-9309.
A more serious and committed Hudson Valley musical figure than Decora does not come to mind. Everything the 32-year-old does and says comes with a breathtaking level of locked-down, unwaveringly intense focus.
With its open-air format, where attendees picnic in the parks and watch the stars emerge during performances, and its $5 youth tickets, the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice is the perfect place to share with children a love of music and theater, in a variety of styles.