The Never Group album begins with an odd introduction by a polite spokesperson or robot: “This music is a mix of different styles: swing bands of the 40s, bebop, the experimental groups of the 60s and the 70s, modern jazz and electricity. On this recording, you’ll hear the original compositions of its leader, Zhenya Strigalev, as well as various interpretations made by group members and special guests.
More to the point, it’s mostly a thunderous jam session (recorded in Berlin), or a minimalist romp.
The group includes the powerhouse of a drummer, Eric Harland, from NYC, the rock and jazz bass-guitarist Tim Lefebvre, who was on David Bowie’s last studio album, Blackstar, and a contemporary classical music composer/electronics wizard Bruno Liberda, from Austria, among the list of special guests.
For much of their tour, however, Strigalev’s Never Group has included Eric Harland, backed by notable special guests Linley Marthe, a bassist from France via Mauritius (and who played with Joe Zawinul), and a Chilean electric guitarist Federico Danneman, ideally influenced by Roberto Bolano.
So…who is Zhenya Strigalev?
Stigalev is a free-loving, hard-driving, hip, young Russian alto-saxophonist, originally from St. Petersburg, based in London, since he moved there to study at the Royal Academy of Music. He graduated in 2007, and since 2010 he has been spending extended periods of time in New York City, which explains his long-term collaboration with Harland and other first-rate players from New York.
A previous group-effort recording of his, “Smiling Organizm” (2012) also on Whirlwind Recordings included Larry Grenadier, the acoustic bassist with the Brad Mehldau Trio, along with Harland, who regularly plays with Charles Lloyd’s current group, and it included Tim Lefebvre on bass guitar.
By the way, when Strigalev plays his saxophone, he tends to tilt up his head so that you can barely see his face. Whether sitting or standing, while blowing his horn, it’s as if he were channeling the spirits for his performances, like a crafty spider spinning its web over its territory, Strigalev plays so intimately over furious jamming going on down below, and especially fed by the ferocity of Harland on drums.
Again, the Never Group ends its “2016” European tour in three upcoming shows in March 2017.
March 1, Wednesday—Paradox, Tilburg, Netherlands
March 2, Thursday—Bimhuis, Amsterdam, Netherlands
March 4, Saturday—Jazz Dock, Prague, Czech Republic
Text: Tony Ozuna
Images: Zhenya Strigalev