Ahmad Jamal once said: “he deserves to be heard at the best concert halls in the world…” The famous Lionel Hampton said: “…that cat really plays…” Thomas Lynne, of This Week Magazine said of Andrei’s music “Perhaps it took a Russian born pianist with a lot of Rachmaninoff in his blood to find a new angle on this material. What one hears from the first cut to the last is not a rehash of the familiar but rather a profoundly emotional exploration of the guts and soul of these classics”. All this points to a musical genius combined with the thirst for the musical expression only jazz can offer and the gut-wrenching cry for the freedom to explore, develop, and present one’s soul on the ivories of the piano. What makes a young boy fall in love with the magic created by jazz? What causes a Russian to taunt authorities, to face fear head on, and leave his homeland to pursue a sound, a voice that is calling to his soul, his heart, his mind, and to every cell in his body? What goes on in the mind of a person who doesn’t speak a word of English, that makes them leave the familiar, the comfortable and embark on a journey with no particular geographical destination, but rather with a musical one? That’s what causes one to do the “Russia to Berkeley” thing Andrei did in 1978. Andrei Kitaev was born in Russia where he started his formal classical piano training at the early age of six. From a family of musicians, including his aunt, a famous concert pianist in Moscow, Andrei felt the flow of music in his veins. He studied for ten years under his aunt. At age 16 he entered the prestigious Gnessin College. He graduated with a final majestic performance of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. The musically enterprising and curious Andrei became acquainted with the sound of jazz by listening to Voice of America at the age of 13 that culminated in his own personal attempts at duplicating the sound and feeling. The very first time Andrei heard jazz he knew he had to play it for the rest of his life. This musical exploration almost got him kicked out of his college only to be stopped when he agreed to no longer play the “bastard” sound from the other side of the cold war. Thus began Andrei’s love affair with that music that made him eventually cross over from the rigors and commitment of the classical world to the ever-expanding universe of jazz piano. The 45 minute Voice of America programs were his only portal to the jazz sound. It is amazing with such a limited access to jazz music that he would be able to master this art. And so he began to practice Jazz in 1978. During the first year of this musical journey Andrei mastered over 400 standards so he could sit in any jam session. At this point in his Jazz carrier he was earning $35 a week. In 1981, Phil Elwood heard Andrei perform and wrote an article about him in the San Francisco Examiner. He said: “warm and technically brilliant pianist…a truly magnificent addition to our…jazz scene. Kitaev deserves recognition” Andrei continued his jazz journey as he studied chord structures and melody lines differently from the regular approach of analyzing and memorizing scales and riffs. His focus was on freedom, poetry, making a beautiful statement with one’s notes, creating musical beauty with a special attention to economy of the notes used. Saying more with less became his trademark. When you say a lot with little, just imagine what can be said with a lot. That is Andrei Kitaev. This unique approach to the orchestrated harmony between keys and strings is what has propelled Andrei to the worldwide recognition and status he now commands. Audiences everywhere recognize a special magic that is generated at his fingertips. These days you will find Andrei rowing his boat down on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, where he now lives with his wife Anastasia. Andrei has performed with many well known artists such as Eddie Gomez, Elvin Jones, John Clayton, Eddie Marshall, Lou Rawls, Arturo Sandoval, Freddie Hubbard, Dean Martin and many more. You can hear Andrei’s sound on his albums First Takes, Reference Recordings, Yesterdays, Global Inner vision, and Live at Vartans. George Fendel, from Jazz Scene Magazines said of Live at Vartans: “My jaw dropped. Never had I heard a more inspired and let’s face it, brilliant Andrei Kitaev…” This is Andrei Kitaev. From Russia with Groove.
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