With his debut album Bridges, New York-based jazz drummer Ilya Dynov reveals himself as a contender on the jazz scene, boasting credits as a formidable performer, composer, and bandleader. The music, ranging in various jazz styles, combines tradition with virtuosity and maintains a high level of creative freedom while displaying a mature sense of harmony.
The record consists of all original compositions by Dynov and features an array of talent out of New York. Joining Ilya Dynov on drums are bassist Lonnie Plaxico, known for his work with Art Blakey, Jack Dejohnette, and Cassandra Wilson, trumpeter Alex Norris who regularly performs with the Vanguard and Mingus Big Bands, and pianist Jihee Heo, a rising star in the NYC jazz scene. Bridges comprises nine tracks: four in a piano trio setting, three as a quartet with trumpet, and two flavourful drum solos provide the ‘Intro’ and ‘Finale’ statements.
The opening two paragraphs were written by Ilya Dynov, all I have done is remove some of the superlatives. The question is, of course, should I have done so? Bridges opens with a brief drummed solo that leads into ‘Constellation’ with a bass introduction that very quickly moves into an ensemble piece. The drums lay down a well-structured pattern, with good bass support, over-which the trumpet and piano play the melody. Jihee Heo is, in my opinion, an excellent pianist (check out her album Are You Ready?) and Alex Norris more than holds his own on the trumpet sections. This is a good contemporary jazz number and from the off Ilya has grabbed my attention in relation to his compositional abilities.
‘Drum and Berries’ is written in the classic era jazz trio style with a relaxed piano sound from Heo, a steady bass line and nicely placed accents from Dynov at the drums. Plaxico gets an opportunity to solo, as does Dynov, and both solos are well-executed and nicely framed by the main theme. The setting moves back to a quartet setting on ‘For Those We Love’. This ballad features the wonderful muted trumpet of Alex Norris and delicate touch of Heo at the piano, with excellent bass work from Plaxico and all underpinned by the deft drumming of Dynov.
‘Blue’ opens with an extended drum solo that builds with a roll before settling back to a supporting role to pianist Heo. This is another jazz trio set number and it bristles with energy as each musician gets to their own section on this up-tempo tune. In terms of structure, this tune will sound reassuringly familiar: in terms of melody, it is something new and compositionally that is a neat trick to pull off. ‘Hope Through Sadness’ slows things down and we are once again treated to the sound of pianist Jihee Heo. Her feel for the melody is palpable and her phrasing simply a joy to hear. The support from Plaxico and Dynov is perfectly pitched and the bass solo, a real delight.
The album’s title track follows and we return to the quartet setting with trumpeter Alex Norris leading on the melody. The playing from both Norris and Heo is very good and only seems to get better on each listen through. Its is very easy to imagine this number going down very well in a live set with its driving rhythm, strong bass lines and sharp finish. ‘68th Street’ is a beautifully written ballad in the traditional jazz standard style. Good brushwork from Dynov, nicely phrased bass lines from Plaxico and captivating piano playing from Heo. Bridges closes with another drum solo from Dynov thus bringing the album full circle.
So, should I have removed the superlatives? On reflection, probably not. This is a very good debut album full of terrific compositions and exceptional playing. Ilya Dynov has chosen his musicians wisely and whether in trio or quartet setting this group sound formidable.
On the whole the album is well-structured and balanced; however, I do agree with Peter McLaren at Jazz in Europe that ‘Constellations’ may have been better placed in the running order – somewhere in the middle to break up the overarching style or at track eight as a taster of what else Dynov the composer is capable of. Ultimately, would I pay to see this band live on the back of what I have heard on this album? Yes, yes, yes and yes again!
Bridges is available at Bandcamp from the 16th of April, 2023 and I highly recommend you check this one out!
Musicians: Ilya Dynov – drums; Lonnie Plaxico – bass; Alex Norris – trumpet; Jihee Heo – piano.
Tracklist: 1. Intro. 2. Constellation. 3. Drum and Berries. 4. For Those We Love. 5. Blue. 6. Hope Through Sadness. 7. Bridges. 8. 68th Street. 9. Finale.
All tracks written by Ilya Dynov, produced by Jihee Heo