To say that the saxophonist Igor Butman is a Jazz musician number one in Russia is not to say enough. "Butman is a musician with a God-given talent", wrote major Russian daily Izvestia.
Born in 1961 in Leningrad ( now St.Petersburg), Igor Butman started playing the clarinet at the age of 11. In 1976 he entered the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music, where during his second year he dropped the classical clarinet for the jazz saxophone. Besides being taught by the remarkable musician and brilliant teacher Gennady Goldstein, he took unofficial lessons from nightly broadcasts of jazz from 11:15 p.m. to midnight on Voice of America.
In 1983 Igor Butman played in Oleg Lundstrem`s big band - the best one in the USSR. Next year he was invited by Nick Levinovsky to join the most well-known jazz group "Allegro" and played with them for free years. In the Soviet Union, a country of over 300 million people, Igor was known as the best tenor saxophonist, repeatedly placing first in the Soviet Critics' Polls and recording many albums for Melodiya.
After Igor Butman emigrated in America in 1987 he went on to major in Performance and Composition at The Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. By the time Igor arrived in the United States, he already had a "fan club" made up of some of America's most respected Jazz artists. While still in the U.S.S.R., Igor was invited to play with touring American musicians, including Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Louis Bellson, and Grover Washington Jr., who took Igor "under his wing". Igor appeared as Grover's special guest in concerts at Chautauqua, New York, the Berklee Center in Boston, and at Great Woods Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Igor has performed as part of Grover's band several times, including at New York's Blue Note. He is featured on Grover Washington Jr.'s Columbia release Then & Now (1988), soloing on "Stolen Moments", "Stella By Starlight", and Igor's own composition, "French Connections".
Moving to New York in 1989, Butman worked with The Lionel Hampton Orchestra. In 1992 Igor recorded with actor/musician Michael Moriarty's Quintet the album "Live at the Fat Tuesday`s" on DRG Records. In Variet's review of this recording, it was noted that Igor, "Impressed with a round tone and deft ability at double time efforts and harmonized tightly".
In 1993 saw the release of his solo album Falling out mostly with Igor's own composition, which featured no less than Eddie Gomez on bass, Lyle Mays on piano and Marvin "Smitty" Smith on drums and received good reviews in the most respectable jazz magazines, such as Downbeat, Jazztimes, and Jazziz. Next year Butman collaborated with Partners in Time, joined by Gary Burton, in the recording of their album Equinost (Intersound).
In 90`s Igor Butman performed at almost every major jazz festival, such as JVC Jazz Festival in New York, Boston Globe Jazz Festival in Boston, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho, Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada.
Butman`s marvellous coalescence of soul, sound and technique drew praise from Bill Clinton, one time tenor man, at a state dinner hosted by Boris Yeltsin at the Moscow Kremlin in 1995.
That year Igor Butman moved to Russia and during the following years he became "a jazz bridge between Moscow and New York" (Ogonyok Weekly), bringing to Russia and playing with Eddie Gomez, Lenny White, Adam Nussbaum, John Abercrombie, Randy Brecker, Joe Locke, Andy LaVerne and many other musicians.
In December 1996 in New York, Igor produced the album Blues for Four by St. Petersburg pianist/composer Andrei Kondakov and featuring bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Lenny White. Inspired by the album`s music the artists decided to give a series of concerts. After a successful Russian tour in April 1997 the magnificient four made another recording Jazz 4x4 (Soyuz).
Especially pleasing to Igor's admirers was his new solo album Nostalgia which was recorded at RPM Studio in New York and released on the Soyuz label in 1997 with Ira Gitler commenting that "Butman showed the fire and depth of his world-class improvisational talent".
In 1997-98 Butman organized and produced the Independent Jazz Festival`s in Moscow, which united Russian and American musicians in diverse combinations. 1998 brought Igor Butman recognition as Man of the Year by the Moscow Association of Jazz Journalists.
When Wynton Marsalis came to Russia in October 1998, Butman was invited to play as a guest soloist with the jazz legend and his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. In his turn, in July 1999, Marsalis played as a featured guest with Igor Butman`s Big Band.
In addition to his performing, Igor Butman is a host of the popular weekly television show Jazzophrenia on Russian TV channel Culture and also he is an artistic director at Le Club - the best jazz club in Moscow.
Igor Butman combines mastery of his chosen instrument with joy and freedom, yet clearly and unquestionably conveys his experiences through his music. Peter Watrous in The New York Times stated, "Igor Butman, a powerful tenor saxophonist turned in a thrusting, complex solo on a be-bop piece". Ken Franckling in Jazztimes called Igor "A postbop performer with great stage presence, horn control and emotion...there is a deep resonance to his uptempo playing and a mature softness to his balladry".
CDs released outside of Russia:
Igor Butman - Falling Out, Impromptu Records, IMP-1031 (1994, USA)
Igor Butman-ts; Eddie Gomez-b; Lyle Mays-p; Marvin "Smitty" Smith-dr.
Partners In Time - Equinost, Intersound CDJ-740 (1994, USA)
Igor Butman-ts,ss; Victor Dvoskin-b; Tony Martucci-dr; Louis Sherr-p, Hammond B-3. Guest artists: Gary Burton-vib; Ryan Kisor-tp; Don Alias-perc; Paul Bollenback-g; Ken Willaman-cello.
Datevik - Ballads From The Black Sea, Mapleshade MS 04332 (1993, USA)
Datevik-voc; Lary Willis-p; I.Butman-ts; Andy McCloud-b; Steve Williamson-dr.
Various - Live In Moscow, B&W Music, BW039, 3 CD Collection (1993, UK)
CD1: Toninho Horta Sextet; CD2: Igor Butman Quartet (Igor Butman-ts; Eddie Gomez-b; Steve Amirault-p; Ronnie Burrage-dr); CD3: compilation.
The Michael Moriarty Quintet - Live At The Fat Tuesday's, DRG Records Incorporated DRG 8438 (1992, USA)
M.Moriarty-p, harmonica, voc; I.Butman-ts,ss; Michael Leonhart-tp,flh; Jay Leonhardt-b; Dennis Mackrell-dr.
Grover Washington, Jr. - Then And Now, CBS 462516 2 (1988, USA)
G.Washington, Jr.-as,ts,ss; I.Butman-ts; Ron Carter-b; Tommy Flanagan-p; Miguel Fuentes-perc; Herbie Hancock-p; James "Sid" Simmons-p; Marvin "Smitty" Smith-dr; Richard Lee Steacker-g; Grady Tate-dr; Gerald Veasley-b; Darryl Washington-dr.
Igor also plays on two Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab releases - 1993 Sphinx (Nick Levinovsky's Allegro) and 1994 - Jazz In The USSR (a compilation where Igor plays one tune).
CDs released in Russia:
Igor Butman Quartet - First Night Swing, Ermatell Records JCD 022
Igor Butman - ts, Alexey Podymkin - p, Dmitry Averchenkov - b, Sergey Belichenko - dr
Igor Butman, Andrey Kondakov, Eddie Gomez, Lenny White - Jazz 4x4, Prestige Records/Soyuz Records SZCD 0772-97
Igor Butman - ts, Andrey Kondakov - p, Eddie Gomez - b, Lenny White - dr
Igor Butman - Nostalgia, Prestige Records/Soyuz Records SZCD 0774-97
Igor Butman - ts, Frank Kimbrough - p, Joe Locke - vibes, Essiet Okon Essiet - b, Alex Sipiagin - tp, Oleg Butman - dr, Gene Jackson - dr
NY-Novosibirsk Double Jazz Quartet - Hellish Mixture, Ermatell Records JCD 032
Igor Butman - ts, Andrey Lobanov - tp, Joe Locke - vibes, Alexey Podymkin - p, Essiet Okon Essiet - b, Dmirty Averchenkov - b, Tony Campbell - dr, Sergey Belichenko - dr
All four CDs - 1997
Four Brothers - Four Brothers, Boheme Music, CDBMR 809021 (1999)
Ivanov Brothers Jazz Project: Igor Butman - ts, ss, Oleg Butman - dr, Mikhail Ivanov - p, Andrey Ivanov - b