Kirill Gerstein has a chance to show both his classical and jazz chops on the CD called The Gershwin Moment, KDFC’s Album of the Week. It includes two works with the St. Louis Orchestra, virtuosic solo arrangements of Gershwin tunes, and musical guests Storm Large and Gary Burton.
You can find out more at our Album of the Week page.
“The experience of playing jazz, it’s for sure been a major influence that has stayed with me, and it certainly influences anything I play, in any style,” Gerstein says. He came to the US when he was 14, already an accomplished player of classical repertoire, to begin studies in jazz piano at Berklee College of Music in Boston (where one of his mentors was vibraphonist Gary Burton). He returned to the classical concert stage, but has always had an affinity for and love of jazz. “The idea and the concept of improvising, and the concept of not reading the music off a page exclusively, but of understanding that music comes from other places than just the written page is a very important thing to experience, and something that I experienced from my jazz studies.” But in approaching the Gershwin classics Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F, he was very judicious about when and how much to improvise. “I’m wary of the trend sometimes to over improvise in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, because I’d say if the amount of material that’s improvised starts to approach the amount of music that’s written, then I start thinking well perhaps one should just write one’s own Rhapsody in Blue, if one is able to.” Mozart and Beethoven, like Gershwin, played their own works as soloist, but also were true to the written music. “It’s perhaps certain embellishments within the piece, and a certain area of cadenza where this improvising might feel most appropriate. There are some places where it feels like an appropriate moment to broach improvising and to include something that’s not notated.”