Fima Chupakhin,piano/Rhodes; Vuyo Sotashe,vocals; Sergey Avanesov,saxophone; Josh Evans,trumpet; Yoav Eshed,guitar; James Robbins,bass; Jonathan Barber,drums.
This is the debut album release by pianist, composer, Fima Chupakhin. As a first-time leader of his own group, he and his band of six energetically interpret Fima’s original compositions, plus a traditional hymn and two jazz standards. From the very first tune, “Don’t Let It Get You Down” this group of Brooklyn-based musicians set the mood for hard bop and straight-ahead jazz. The title tune, “Water,” is explored by the lovely vocals of Vuyo Sotashe. This composition is fluid and full of melodic motion, perfectly describing water and its unpredictable movements. There are no words here. Just the vocals singing the melody, horn-like. Enter Fima Chupakhim on grand piano,with James Robbins strong on double bass and Jonathan Barber steady on trap drums.
“Dedication to Roy” immediately brought to my mind an image of Roy Ayers, because of the strong groove and pretty melody. I don’t know who the ‘Roy’ is that Chupakhim was thinking of, but I could clearly hear Roy Ayers putting his vibraphone mallets to work on this tune.
The actual inspirational icons that Fima Chupakhin mentions in his liner notes are legends like Tadd Dameron, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Barry Harris and Mulgrew Miller. Chupakhin earned his Master’s Degree at William Paterson University, where he spent two intense years studying piano with maestro James Weidman. After this accomplishment, he returned to his native Ukraine, where he is celebrated as a cross-genre keyboardist and film composer, as well as for his jazz sensibilities. After a short time, the pianist found himself once again hungry for the energy and challenge of New York City. He returned to the United States on an artist visa in 2015. Surrounded by the excellence of Sergey Avanesov on saxophone, Josh Evans on trumpet and adding guitarist Yoav Eshed to his rhythm section, Fima Chupakhin’s music is a formidable blend of European and African American music styles. Chupakhim is a strong composer, showcasing very memorable melodies. He describes his music as “anchored in jazz, classical and improvised music.” When I listen to this work of fine art that Fima Chupakhim has created, I hear a great appreciation for the freedom that jazz inspires, sprinkled with hard bop overtones that splash and move like water and waves. His ensemble arrangements float his compositions like colorful boats. Settle back and take a cruise with Fima Chupakhim across the deep waters of his creative mind.
Apparently those cats from over there still think America has streets paved with gold. A cat with a thriving career in Ukraine music and film ditches to it come over here on a scholarship and basically start over. With his established chops in tow, we’re not dealing with a beginner here that’s learning the ropes from jump. Trying on several styles in his mostly original program, he impresses at all stops. A tasty jazz piano led date, this set is heavy on listening music even though it’s loaded with bebop underpinnings. Quite the auspicious debut.