This morning Odessa said goodbye to Yuri Kuznetsov, it’s greatest Jazz pianist, with almost five hundred of his friends and loyal fans gathering for a daytime service in the philharmonic building. Kuznetsov was the founder and director of the ‘Odessa Jazz Fest’ festival and was also the doyen of the Jazz scene in the city. He was widely considered to be in possesion of one of the most virtuosic and inventive piano techniques in Ukraine. Kuznetsov succumbed to the effects of a complex cancer on the night of May 2nd. He had been publicly battling cancer since the late autumn. Mourners at his funeral procession outside of the philharmonic filled up the street with carnations.
With his distinctive and habitually unkempt rattail haircut, Kuznetsov was also a mainstay of the cultural life of the city, a ribald and charismatic presence who was perpetually energetic, open, giving and full of life. Thoug he was a classically trained pianist he was well known for his multiple hour long experimental concerts, during which he performed his signature extended tone poems. Kuznetsov was born on July 11th, 1953 in Odessa, and remained entranced by his beloved city till the end of his days, eschewing multiple available opportunities to emigrate to France, Russia and Germany. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Pop/Jazz Department at the Odessa Music Academy.
The poet Boris Khersonsky, a close friend of the pianist, composed an ode in his memory:
In Memory of Yuri Kuznetsov
As between you and the music there’s not even a sheet of paper,
without scribbled notes, strung on the wire
of a music staff, music requires courage and bravery,
love and mirth, free of guilt and shame.
When you don’t know where the idea comes from,
where forehead beats against earth and nothingness
Pygmalion the musician and Galatea the music,
you create her, you know her.
Because music has an elastic female body,
enticing, flammable, but also repulsive to
him who is afraid. To the one who touches her clumsily,
whom she abandons in anger, leaving him alone.
The tempo does not change, it seems to people, sounds
all quickly follow each other, so unfurls the beat,
But the breath is interrupted. The hands freeze in nothingness.
And the music abandons us, leading you along with her.