The world at large has been inundated with news from the recent Russian incursion into Ukraine. While the storms of war gather, pianist and composer Vadim Neselovskyi chooses to remind people of the country’s beauty and cultural legacy. More specifically, Neselovskyi looks to his hometown on the Black Sea to inspire his new solo recording on Sunnyside Records, Odesa: A Musical Walk Through a Legendary City.
As a child prodigy growing up in still-Soviet Ukraine, Neselovskyi became the youngest student to be accepted into the famed Odessa Conservatory. While honing his classical virtuosity, he was also hearing such jazz giants as Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and Thelonious Monk via CDs sold by sailors passing through the bustling port city (or, more often, tapes dubbed from those CDs). At 17, he moved with his family to Dortmund, Germany, continuing his classical studies while establishing himself on the local jazz scene.
Neselovskyi received his most crucial break via a former Berklee mentor and longtime influence, Gary Burton. Long known for his knack for discovering and nurturing young talent, Burton asked the pianist to join his Generations Quintet, where Neselovskyi’s bandmates included future all-stars Julian Lage, Luques Curtis, and James Williams. Even after that group disbanded, Neselovskyi continued composing and arranging for Burton until the vibraphonist’s retirement in 2017, contributing to three albums: Next Generation (Concord), If You Love Me (Cam Jazz), and Common Ground (Mack Avenue).
The Los Angeles Times has praised Neselovskyi’s “extraordinary playing” while the Guardian has called him “the most promising of the young improvisers.” All About Jazz recognized his singular versatility, referring to him as “a strong pianist [as well as] a composer who blends form and freedom in new ways.”