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International jazz combo includes Oklahoma musician on guitar, sitar

Top photo by Sarah Hussain / Lower photo courtesy Sean O'Bryan Smith.
Sitar player Max Ridgway (above) and bassist Sean O'Bryan Smith (below) contribute to the Kazhargan World Jazz Group.
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ALVA, Okla. – Although Max Ridgway has never met any of his fellow bandmates in person, he is still amazed at how good he and the others – who live in various parts of the world – sound when Russian pianist and composer Stanislav “Stan” Zaslavsky pastes the musical contributions together – including those from Ridgway – into a tuneful whole.

Called the Kazhargan World Jazz Group, Zaslavsky has handpicked these different musicians – including Ridgway on guitar and sitar; Hans Peter Salentin, a Cologne, Germany-based trumpeter; flutist Cheryl Pyle from New York; Sasha Pyshminsev, a saxophonist from Russia; Sean O’Bryan Smith of Nashville, Tenn. also contributing bass; and Laurent Planells, a drummer based in Paris, France – to record a new album called Destinations, which will be released soon and is a follow-up to the previous album, 2014’s Post Fiction, which is available via iTunes and also on Amazon, via Dewey Records.

Image courtesy Kazhargan World

As Ridgway (whom we highlighted in a piece in 2015 headlined “Raga in Alva: College music teacher only known sitar player in Oklahoma) explained, the musicians communicate and exchange music tracks through social media and email.

Zaslavsky then mixes and produces the whole record at his homebase in Russia. 

Ridgway, who is also an adjunct instructor of music at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, said that when he explains it to people, the first reaction is to “think it would be a total mess,” but he assures this reporter that it is “super, high-quality, sophisticated jazz” and “really quite amazing.”

Listening to a sample track, “Destinations,” with Ridgway’s sitar kicking things off and giving it an Indian flavor, initially, Salentin’s trumpet comes in and then the jazz combo really lays it down with Pyle’s jazz flute sounding reminiscent of improvisational Cuban jazz flutist Bobby Ramirez, alongside Zaslavsky’s piano.

And Ridgway is correct in saying that the results are “quite amazing.” You would think that these musicians are all in the same room.

Ridgway comes to Oklahoma City once a month to perform free concerts with his jazz group the Max Ridgway Trio. They have a record called Deep Memory Scan that captures Ridgway's jazz guitar style, accompanied by a bassist and drummer.

Red Dirt Report also talked to Kazhargan’s bassist, Sean O’Bryan Smith in Nashville. He said he met flutist Cheryl Pyle years ago through MySpace and became friends. When his group played in New York, Pyle would sit in. Later, as Kazhargan was forming, she told Smith about it and he soon became a member of the group.

Smith has played with some major names over the years, over 100 major and indie acts through the years, including George Clinton and Kenny Rogers. As an established musician in Nashville, Smith has “been active in the country music industry with numerous major artists both live and in the studio,” he told us in an email. Smith also scores films and owns a multimedia production company.

In regards to Kazhargan, Smith says “Stan is brilliant” and that he “always loved how he edits and puts us all together.”

Concluded Smith: “He’s perfected the act of remote recording and makes us sound like a live ensemble even when we are in different countries.”

Image courtesy Kazhargan World.

The previous CD, called Post Fiction, is available on iTunes, but the new one is not up yet. Some of Kazhargan World’s music can be heard on YouTube, such as this track, “Spirit of Discovery,” a smooth jazz number on 2012’s Wonderful Times album.

Or go here to learn more about this highly-talented, international group.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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