MAKING A SCENE
by Jim Hynes
In a Big City
In a Big City is the debut studio album as a bandleader for bassist /composer Igor Kogan for this quintet setting, He features 9-time Grammy Award nominee vocalist Tierney Sutton on “Vocalise.” The members of his fiery, versatile, contemporary sounding quintet are Jeremy Lappitt (tenor saxophone), Joshua Aguiar (trumpet/flugelhorn), Marco Apicella (piano), and Matthew Baker (drums). Kogan is Russian born, began playing the violin at age seven, immigrated to Israel at the age of fifteen where he started to learn jazz and play bass. He later attended The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in NYC where he earned his bachelor’s degree. After several years in NYC, he later moved to Los Angeles where he now resides, pursuing a variety of projects that include jazz and orchestral concert music as well as commercial projects, film scores, musicals, and session work. He leads his own quintet and a 17-piece Contemporary Jazz Orchestra.
The theme of the album is his move to the two big cities on either coast but principally from Israel to the U.S. As such, it is deeply personal. The album begins energetically with the aptly named “Takeoff,” showcasing each quintet member in a solo. “Qwerty aka False Start” begins with, as you guessed, several starts and stops. Kogan establishes a strong walking bass line that keeps all players at a face pace, emblematic of big city bustle. Both horns are especially emphatic in their solos. Three tracks in, we are still riding a steady quick tempo for a waltz in ¾ time, “Expectations,” featuring more expressive front line statements as Kogan and Baker stay in the pocket. We do find calm in “illumination,” a gorgeous meditative ballad, notable for Kogan’s robust bass tone, Apicella’s elegant piano, and tender takes from the two horns.
Naturally, the big city life pulls us out of that meditative state rather quickly, hence “Emergency Call,” the perfect musical translation of frantic panic. As we write this today on 9/11, I’m reminded of trying to contact my son who was in NYC on that fateful day. Kogan rarely takes the solo spotlight but inserted his own solo piece “Bass Introduction” as a way into “New York Blues.” As Kogan speaks about the latter, he talks about it being a tribute to traditional jazz styles. The blues are not all that obvious, but its 6/8 time gives it that kind of feeling. Throughout the album one can hear the blending of traditional jazz approaches with a more contemporary context but this is closer to tradition than the others.
You’ve probably heard the term “vocalise” before as it refers to wordless vocals. As such Tierney Sutton’s voice becomes another instrument paired with a horn for the piece. It begins as a vocal exchange with the bass that serves to establish the melody. The song builds in intensity as her voice mixes with Aguiar’s flugelhorn, almost in effect taking the place of a saxophone which is absent from the track. Kogan concludes with “Big City,” and edgy tune takes in three different meters to reflect the chaotic environment, and like the opener, feature solos from each group member.
Kogan delivers a highly creative, well composed contemporary jazz album, that provides a nice balance of calm and fury, punctuated with unpredictable moments that make for repeat listens. He has a great future as a bandleader.