Recognized as one of the finest Russian rock-fusion guitarists among his peers, Alexander Kostarev was born on July 1, 1954 in Yekaterinburg. Possessor of various playing-techniques and a distinctive hard-edged sound, Kostarev is a masterful improviser and composer whose music generally falls somewhere between classically inspired art-rock, fusion, and avant-prog. Not only he was a pioneer of rock-music in the USSR, but his own group was among “big four” of Russian all-instrumental units of the 80s along with DO MAJOR, JUNGLIE and RAINY SEASON. He started on guitar with THE CROSSROAD while at the Urals University in 1976, and then in 1986 moved to Moscow where he launched QUADRAPHONIC SOUND THEATRE with Ekaterina Morozova on keyboards and Roman Bobrovsky on drums (the name then was changed to COSMOBOB), and worked with many Russian jazz and rock musicians as a session guitarist. His own recording sessions have never been published until 2003, when Kostarev led growing prog-rock movement in Russia. Though he didn’t continue with a steady string of releases after his debut-album, his current KOSTAREV GROUP remains one of the most important live act at the local progressive rock scene.
For more information about the band please visit KOSTAREV GROUP official homepage.
Leave it to Alexander Kostarev – a sorely underappreciated Russian composer and guitarist whose instrumental progressive rock-music was so ahead of its time that its huge influence on the local scene became apparent only now – commemorating the 30th anniversary of his career to put out a collection that really isn’t a typical best-of thing. In fact, Works is the second Kostarev’s album in 30(!) years, more of a true collector’s item, combining studio and live materials, gathering together ten of the would-be hits from the period of 1978-2006. Completely instrumental, nine of the compositions have never been published before and said to be the only remaining tracks from the accidentally lost studio-albums: The Crossroad (1985), Dead Music (1995), Cosmobob (2001), and Concerto Grosso #1 (2003). One track is taken from the Live@InProg album produced on CD by Starless Records in 2003. Except of the earliest three closing tracks, which were restored from amateurish tapes, all these rarities definitely approach the caliber of the best instrumental prog-art-rock albums: the dark-edged “Turn-A-Round” and “Pilgrim”, the heavy-riffaged “Heavy Water” and “Hoop”, and the classic-refined “Menuetto”. The opening track “Who’s flying over me?” is the newest composition from the KOSTAREV GROUP’ current line-up. For both the expert or neophyte, this album not only paints an incomplete portrait of one the most distinguished local progressive rock artists, but also it is actually the first such deep penetration into history of the Russian progressive rock-movement which through the decades stand well apart from the cultivated standards of local popular as well as underground scene. Self-produced by Alexander Kostarev with the financial support from RAIG. (10 tracks - 63 min.)
"It's rather astonishing that Works 1978-2006 is only his second release. The compilation can be seen as a three-part experience in anti-chronological sequence. It all starts with a recent composition called Who's Flying Over Me?, a perfect combination of prog, avant-garde, RIO, contemporary classical music and folk. The two following tracks from 2003 head into a similar direction. These tracks alone would have been 9 points worth. It's here where the band not only sounds its fullest (with instruments like saxophone, flutes and cello aboard), but also is produced ideally. The next four songs are from 2001 and 1995. The 2001 tracks have a more sterile atmosphere, but are still decent fusion prog rock music. The 1995 tracks are even colder and a bit of a letdown, not too accessible and rather experimental. The last three tracks, recorded between 1978 and 1985, have been restored from old tapes, and it shows. Although the sound quality is rather mushy, the last two tracks, especially the 13 minute long closer No Fears, show an impressive historical picture of Soviet era avant jazz rock music that I wouldn't have expected from that period in time. Works 1978-2006 is an interesting walkthrough through the history of an extremely talented fusion guitarist who must have started out in the Seventies in the very deepest underground, then turned to more synthesized music in the Nineties just to have found back to his old form now in the new millennium, and we can hope that Mr Kostarev and his group will deliver soon a full-length album of exceptional instrumental avant-prog music. (Grade: 7/10)" – by Pascal Thiel of DisAgreement (Luxembourg) (December 2006).
"Kostarev blends classical, baroque, folk, jazz, rock and modern elements in an endlessly inventive and thoroughly entertaining style. Its hard to pick highlights when the standards are this high, but you really must check out Menuetto where the track flits seamlessly between classical and jazz fusion styles, the tempestuous and turbulent Hoop and the searing intensity of Heavy Water for some of the most exciting fusion to surface this century. The two cuts from 1995’s Dead Music are a bit more experimental in approach, and the earliest tracks lean more to the jazz side of things. I heartily recommend this work as an introduction to a master of contemporary fusion, and his Concerto Grosso #1 is a must have for fans of Classical/Baroque/Rock combinations. Kostarev is easily the equal of his more well known American and European counterparts, don’t let him slip under your radar! (Conclusion: 8 out of 10)" – by Dave Sissons of DPRP (UK) (March 2007).
"Restlessness combined with a great sense of humor typify these pieces. Across the 10 tracks stylistic imprints are all over the place. From prog rock to the Stooges take on the free jazz and noise to hints of guitar amped Rickenbacker basses set in fractal motion by a close-to-Bruford sounding rim. From the also hard to classify constructs of Ensemble Nimbus to a few bars of Gryphon’s contemporary extrapolations of the Medieval. Kostarev has the ability to not only imprint pretty much any style with convincing conviction, he trends to concurrently subvert it. This is the music of a man who perhaps knows too much. Still, his digestive processes are admirable and the compositional and performance skills on display will stand up to pretty well anyone. The Works do in fact work. (Score: 3,5/5)" – by Kerry Leimer of Sea Of Tranquility (USA) (July 2007).
(11 tracks - 61 min.)
"On the edge of the CD case is proclaimed “Sympho Progressive Fusion” and this pretty much sums up the music of Alexander Kostarev and his group. The disc is effectively split into two halves, with (after a brief taster of the second half) the first five real tracks being in a Jazz Fusion vein and the concluding five tracks (the Concerto Grosso) unsurprisingly being in more of a symphonic style. Certainly no slouch when it comes to the guitar, Kostarev however chooses not to hog the limelight, with the accent being on ensemble playing. The expanded instrumental line-up also features keyboards, violin, flute, saxophone and drums so there is plenty of diversity in the musical textures. Kostarev himself contributes harmonica on Hard Water, somewhat unusual for this type of fusion, but surprisingly effective as it clashes with the penetrating violin of Gennady Lavrentiev. Kostarev’s guitar often has an odd, fuzzed-up sound, giving a unique twist to the blazing hot fusion. Also unusual in tone are many of the keyboard sounds employed by Ekaterina Morozova. There’s a touch of Keith Emerson’s style here and there, but quite different in actual sound. She’s great throughout, but particularly impressive on the furious Vegetarian and also on Concerto Grosso. In the picture on the sleeve, she looks a little like she could audition as the next Harry Potter, but she brings her own kind of magic to this special musical brew. Oasis utilises tablas and flutes for a moody eastern tinged opus, a tad more restrained than the preceding tracks but delicious nonetheless. Kostarev pulls off a great solo here. As with most of the tracks, the arrangements are meticulously tight but with room for improvisation. The second half of the disc is, if anything, even more enjoyable, still finding room for some jazzy touches and a little improv but mainly veering off into a neo-classical symphonic style, by turns light and playful (the opening Allegro) and sombre and moody (the Mussorgsky-ish Largo). There are quite a few prog bands that have tried their hands at this particular genre, with varying degrees of success but AKG manage to pull it off with quite some panache, giving the format their own particular twist. The violin and flute come to the forefront with sprightly playing from Yuri Lopukhin underpinning the sweeping melodies of Lavrentiev. With Kostarev vigorously attacking the fret board, this comes across like a cross between King Crimson and New Trolls. The gentle, almost straight classical opening to Menouetto is roughly pushed aside for a frenetic jam before returning to a milder conclusion, but with a splash of avant-rock to keep you on your toes. Adagio has a stately classical theme and a funky edge, and Presto Finale reprises the opening motif for a rousing conclusion, with dynamic organ and feverish flute.
This live album is enjoyable from start to finish, and comes with a bonus Video track enabling us to get a glimpse of the team in action. Though not startlingly original, they have managed to inject a fresh perspective on an old formula, and create some unusual of textures by use of non-standard instrumental voicing. (Conclusion: 8 out of 10)" – by Dave Sissons of DPRP (UK) (September 2005).
The album was also reviewed at: Babyblaue (Germany), Manticornio (Mexico), MovimentiProg (Italy), Prog-Resiste (Belgium), ProgressiveEars (USA), Progressor (Uzbekistan), Psyche van het Folk (Belgium), Sea Of Tranquility (USA), The Metal List (Russia).
|CD (Starless Records)