Downtown by Konstantin Klashtorni Ė reviewed by Chris Mann

 

  Ukrainian-born Konstantin Klashtorni has had an extensive musical education, including Kiev State Music College and the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag, Holland, where he studied for his Masters Degree. 

After graduation, he worked with Peter Pashkov's "Vuyko Band" exploring styles such as hard bop, cool jazz, etc.  With this band, Konstantin took part in the "Jazz-Rock Jamboree" festival in Budapest, Hungary in 1991.

 

When he moved to Venezuela, Konstantin first experienced Latin-American music styles and incorporated them into his developing personal style.  Between 1995 and 2000, Konstantin worked with a host of bands in Venezuela.  He was part of numerous music projects where such names as Dionne Warwick and Eric Marienthal performed and he even played the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1996 as part of the Biella Da Costa band.

 

Heís now based in Holland, and after touring most of Europe and a large part of South America, his association with Nightstage Records has resulted in this, his debut CD. 

Youíll be hooked in the first few bars of the title track Ė itís the sort of sound thatís made stars of Jeff Kashiwa, Eric Marienthal, Euge Groove and other players whoíve sussed that you can dance to jazz and still have something to sing on the train to work!  The rhythm is busy Ė if you dance to it, youíll need to catch your breath.  The tone and power of the sax will immediately impress you.  Itís also impressive to hear a player show two sides of their talent in their first two songs; the lovely Waiting for You is as romantic as the first song is wild!  The arrangement of this song is typical of the most accomplished smooth jazz performers/producers.  Are you looking forward to the next nine songs?? 

Easy Moving Ė oh my word, radio jocks seize this one and make it the song of the summer!  Great groove with strong rhythm and catchy keyboard stabs, but man, itís that hook, that HOOK!  Utterly sublime, good-time music.  Youíd expect Lullaby to be sweet and gentle and it is just that.  The percussion and keyboards do just enough but the sax is the star here, leading with a strong melody and chorus. 

The groove is a little mechanical on Sunday Ė but itís infectious.  The gentle hip-hop groove is overlaid with layers of tasteful keyboards and the chord sequences are hugely appealing to my ears.  But, again, listen to that sax while youíre dancing Ė it could be Eric Marienthal or any of the players right at the top of the smooth jazz tree.  Too Much to be Truth is more of a mid-tempo groove and itís a very strong one.  This guyís melodies are some of the strongest you will hear and I canít believe that a sax player this strong is able to provide all his own backing instrumentation.  Youíll often hear me expressing disappointment that electronic rhythms are used on smooth jazz CDís, especially by artists who are beginning their recording careers.  Iím going to stop that, or at least I am for players like this where the melodic content and sheer musicality of whatís coming out of my speakers is as delightful as this. 

On Funky Story, Klashtorni steps out with Kirk Whalum-style confidence on alto and his phrasing and energy place him alongside the best players in this genre that you can name.  Very infectious Ė he knows just how long he can hold a note before moving onto the next measure and he must blow live audiences away!  When this guy gets mellow, youíd better listen too Ė Morning Song is a song Najee would be proud of and even on the tiny speakers Iím using as I type this on my PC, it sounds dramatic.  Itís mixed using lots of reverb so the sax notes hang in the air above the classy keys and finger-snaps.  Minor chords are making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!  Dynamite ballad! 

Thereís a hint of African and a dash of calypso on the sunny, upbeat Back to the Sunny Place.  Klashtorni has taken his sax to many countries and some of them must have been an inspiration for this song.  The strutting Wild Fellow should get serious airplay Ė itís a song that has a great hook and the use of closely doubled horn lines is highly effective, as it is on several of the songs here.  Iíd love to hear this live with a drummer and bass player really rocking the place!  Letís close on a high Ė Octopus is another tough groove with darker keyboards than some of the songs.  It must be another crowd-pleaser because itís structured in a way that would let every member of the band take a turn in the spotlight in a live setting. 

Iím very lucky Ė this treasure dropped into my mailbox and I had no idea what to expect.  You need to go no further than Konstantinís very stylish website to find out about the man and his music and Amazon.com to buy this CD.  Iíve run out of superlatives to use about this album.  Let me just say that Konstantin, and Nightstage Records, needs to be ready for a very busy time once more people in Europe and the USA start to hear this CD.  I donít believe it Ė you wonít believe it Ė you have to hear it.

  

 

Nightstage Records Ė NSR003 Ė Produced by Konstantin Klashtorni and Eugene Minakov