Russia Blues Tour 2015

Eli plays the blues

Eli Yamin

 

Playing the blues for people is a great thrill. It’s like sharing the spark of life-running through you, out your instrument and into the audience and back. Then building to another spark and another-there’s nothing like it.  Through my piano, through my voice-building with band members, tour managers and the audience-always the audience. The blues is community and it is what we attain when we work TOGETHER.

For Russia Blues Tour 2015 I was blessed to have on the musician team one of my longest associates in New York City, a drummer, vocalist, composer, father and community leader.  He epitomizes groove in the way he plays, talks, walks and tells stories. The supreme team player. Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax…

 

Dwayne "Cook" Broadnax

Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax

Our vocalist, was a relatively new musical associate. We met years ago on the Jazz cruise but this was our first tour together. She is a bandleader and matriarch of the New York jazz and blues scene bringing up many young musicians behind her as Carrie Smith and Etta Jones did for her. Antoinette Montague…

Antoinette Montague

Antoinette Montague

 

Our youngest member toured with me three years ago in Guatemala. He’s a composer and a middle school band director with an open mind and a heart for the blues. Ben Stapp…

 

Ben Stapp with students at Tchaikovsky Music School, Yekaterinburg, Russia

Ben Stapp with students at Tchaikovsky Music School, Yekaterinburg, Russia

 

In nine days, we performed seven concerts and gave five education workshops. We performed live on Television and Radio reaching audiences of thousands in person and hundreds of thousands through the media. At a time when Russian-American relations were cool, it felt especially meaningful to feel the warmth of the Russian audiences, their serious listening, and loving the classic American art form of the blues.

Based in Yekaterinburg in the Urals, we made trips to neighboring towns to perform at Community Center Concert Halls. Usually, these halls had about 500 seats filled with all age audiences.

 

Russian and U.S. Flag over stage in Nevyansk

Russian and U.S. Flag over stage in Nevyansk

 

After the show

Eli Yamin Blues Band Members after the show with Sarah Saperstein, US Diplomat/Public Affairs Officer, Lyubov Bondarenko, tour co-producer and audience members.

 

After the show in Nevyansk, we visited the Icon Museum, where we got a fantastic glimpse of a living modern and ancient Russian art tradition of iconic painting. Notice how the images of Jesus and Mary are brown skin, more historically accurate then typically seen in the West. I was moved by the art and home cooked meal we enjoyed by our hostess.

The food and hospitality reminded me that this was the food my grandparents ate, who were Russian Immigrants. My grandfather, Samuel Yamin, was not a religious man but strongly identified himself as a Jew. He immigrated to the U.S. from Russia when he was two years old in 1904 to escape the Pogroms, when allies of the Czar wiped out entire Jewish villages including my Grandfather’s village in Nikor, Belarussia, near Brest.  My Grandfather and his siblings never spoke of Russia or mentioned it as part of their identity but they ate the food and I thank our gracious host Natalia for reminding me in such a soulful way of my Russian roots.

 

 

Our next stop was a large factory in Polevskoy, the Sibirsky Pipes Plant. One of the largest rolling mills in the world, we performed in the factory itself for workers and local college students in celebration of the one year anniversary of this particular factory. The company is a couple of hundred years old with a rich history. They have a museum that celebrates the history and are serious about supporting local cultural events. I wonder if BB King ever performed at the Ford Factory? He sure sang about it. We felt his spirit with us.

 

 

After all that factory action, we were more then ready to return to the concert hall and found a sweet audience in another manufacturing town, Irbit. They are famous for manufacturing motorcycles. I did a radio interview before the show and wish I could connect with Sergey from Radio Skit again. He is such a deep devotee of the blues!

 

We traveled to these towns by band bus and had a solid Russian man behind the wheel at all times keeping us safe…Thank-you Radik!

 

Cook, Eli and Antoinette with Radik

Cook, Eli and Antoinette with Radik

 

And here’s the snowy road to our next town of Verkhnyaya Salda…

 

 

Once we arrived in Salda, what a warm reception! Many young singers and instrumentalists came to our workshop and jam with us and they could really play…

 

Here are a couple of TV clips from Salda…

 

The Performance…

 

 

The Workshop…

 

 

Back in Yekaterinburg, we had a light day with a half-hour TV appearance. Notice how Cook makes a drum set out of nothing, and shuffles us into to good health altogether anyway…

YouTube Preview Image

On this day, I also got to visit a wonderful sound technician at the theatre in Yekaterinburg named Jacob. He showed me is amazing vintage radio collection. Radios from the 40’s forward from all over Europe and they all work!

Eli, Jacob and radios

Eli, Jacob and the radios…

Eli checks out a famous music group from Belarussia, recorded 1968.

Eli checks out a famous music group from Belarussia, recorded 1968.

Speaking of radio, Rock Arsenal Radio show got us playing a bar early the next morning…

Eli and Ben

Ben and Eli

 

We hit one more town and it was a beauty, rich with soulful blues loving people like all the others, Kamensk-Uralsky…

 

Saturday night we were back in Yekaterinburg at the Blues and Bottle Festival. Run by a gregarious multi-talented artist and producer, Yevgeniy Gorenburgthis festival was a joy to take part in. We loved hearing classic sounds of Evgeny Margulis and other beautiful Russian musicians on the program and singing together at the end, You Are So Beautiful and When the Saints Go Marching In.

Eli sings

Blues and Bottle Sign

Audience

 

Our final day was a whirlwind in Yekaterinburg with a workshop at the Tchaikovsky Music College in the morning, workshop for Tchaikovsky Music School in the afternoon followed by one final concert. We were blown away by the talent and skill of the students at the college and music school.  Our most heartfelt congratulations go to the strong teacher leaders, Elina Kerzhkovskaya, Alexey Bykov, and Julia Jaye Kiprijanova, who we got to meet along with their students. The college students got deep into making a soulful sound with Antoinette and the young saxophone players brought tears to our eyes with their heartfelt renditions of “I Remember Clifford” and “Frankie and Johnny.”

 

 

We are so thankful for our co-sponsors, the US Consulate in Yekaterinburg, the Blues and Bottle Festival and The Jazz Drama Program, especially Sarah Saperstein, Maria Taff and Lyubov Bonderenko. We can’t wait to see you all again in Russia. As the saying goes, the mountains may never meet, but we will surely meet again.

 

Ben Cook Eli joking around

Ben, Cook, Eli in Yekaterinburg, Russia for the first time.

 

Eli and Jazz Musician Professors Alexey Bykov and Vitaly Vladimirov

Group With Sarah and Maria

Maria Taff, co-producer of the tour from the US Consulate with Public Affairs Officer Sarah Saperstein and the band at the Sibirsky Plant.

 

Lyubov Bondarenko, Blues and Bottle Festival

Lyubov Bondarenko, Blues and Bottle Festival

Blues and Bottle ID back home on Eli’s piano in Inwood, New York City.

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