ALEXANDER TSAROVTSEV AND THE PILGRIM
Martin Walker of The Guardian called Alexander TSAROVTSEV a "Jewish Ray Charles". Alexander's soulful renditions of Russian, Hebrew and American songs combined with his gift for writing and performing make him a versatile artist worthy of critical and public attention.
Genuine musical talent already obvious during Alexander's childhood took him to such prestigious learning establishments as the Mussorgsky Musical College and the Leningrad Conservatory (both in St. Petersburg, Russia).
Alexander began his performing career at the age of seventeen, singing and playing guitar in front of crowds of several hundred people. He has toured all over the former Soviet Union, visiting such remote regions as Kazakhstan and Siberia.
Alexander started recording in the early eighties with his first acoustic rock-band YABLOKO. After a couple of years, he left YABLOKO to from a band called PILIGRIM (THE PILGRIM), which was officially banned by the KGB due to the rebellious nature of their material, and the members were forced underground. Later Alexander resurfaced as a solo performer, broadening his repertoire to include various styles and traditions of folk music. In 1987, he won the Grand Prix at the First National Blues Festival held in Riga.
After a brief tour of Austria and Italy, Alexander decided to take his talents to the United States. He has performed and been warmly received by audiences in cities like New York, Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore and Milwaukee. Alexander has also appeared in programs on several TV and radio stations such as NBC.
In 1990, he released his first solo album in the U. S. Simply entitled SASHA (which is a Russian nickname for Alexander), it came out on an independent label, and achieved considerable success in the Russian-American community.
In the late nineties, also in New York, he recorded two albums – WALKING OVER THE FALLING LEAVES (was released on a Russian label BOMBA-PITER in the end of 2005) and a selection of original compositions called FREE FLYING, which is soon to be released in Russia.
And it is in “new”, open Russia that Alexander has been spending most of his time over the last few years, primarily in his native city of St. Petersburg and in Moscow, where he put together a new band under the good old name of PILIGRIM, and started performing regularly.
Lately Alexander has been increasingly focusing on so-called HEBREW ETHNO-ROCK, a term he invented for his own specific musical style: basically it boils down to blending an old Hassidic singing tradition (in which excerpts mostly from the Prayer book in Hebrew are sung to either folk or composed tunes) with the contemporary “world music” idioms.
In 2003, Alexander TSAROVTSEV recorded his new disc STAR OF SOLOMON, which came out on a major Russian label MISTERIYA ZVUKA in the end of May of 2004 – for the first time in history an album of original music in Hebrew was freely released and has been widely distributed all over the former Soviet Union.
STAR OF SOLOMON
In America Alexander took great interest in studying the Kabbalah. Its secret doctrine became a real catalyst for his musical and artistic activity. It is considered that, while listening to the music composed and performed under the direct influence of the spiritual realms, the audience – even without understanding the words – kind of draws surrounding light, which gradually unveils a true picture of reality
Back in Russia some recordings of TSAROVTSEV’s music (there were also a couple of Jewish songs there) came to late Arthur Piliavin’s attention, who was immediately struck with the idea to record an ethno-rock album in Hebrew and convinced Alexander to move to Moscow in order to do that. The preproduction was already over, and they were about to start working in the studio, when a tragic car-accident seemed to destroy all those plans. After Arthur’s sudden death and the shock that Alexander had to overcome gradually, it was very difficult to find as grate a producer. Yet eventually, in his native St. Petersburg, TSAROVTSEV met with Alexander Manotskov, a young and talented composer/instrumentalist, who wrote remarkable arrangements to all twelve songs. Good local musicians were invited to join in, and at an excellent new DDT Studios everything that had been conceived was played, sung and recorded, while the Nikitskaya Jewish Cultural Center in Moscow offered its support in the realization of the project. At last, also in Moscow, the closest Piliavin’s collaborator, Denis Sluzhivtsev completed the postproduction stage, i.e. the additional programming, the mixdown and the mastering, which finally formed the general style of the album and its unique sound.
Not many people are able to penetrate the secrets of the esoteric knowledge of Jewish KABBALAH’s mystic doctrine, but everyone can feel in one’s heart the music growing out of the same ancient roots. This is when the Chassidic singing tradition comes into play sounding like it should today in the interpretation of the master – the contemporary leader of the genre.
Probably Adam spoke with God in Hebrew, and in the same language there was the Word, which was in the Beginning. So it is conceivable why intellectuals of different epochs and nations such as Tolstoy and Borghes, showed their interest in the language of Abraham and Jacob. During many millennia the ancient culture of the Jews was maintained by written word – it was unchangeable, and consequently all other attributes of culture, including music, were willingly borrowed from the world around. The Chassidic tradition connects the sacral ancient word and Kabbalistic meditation with modern extraverted music – it has always been like that, and this album is made according to the same principle, with one essential difference: the musical "expansion" here outreaches the boundaries imposed by history and geography. Chassidic tunes try on every possible apparel from American blues to English art-rock to Pakistani Qawwali. This album is for all those who love everything live and interesting in music.
The way the songs sound seems unusual: Alexander TSAROVTSEV’s powerful, sensual and easily recognizable voice is in counterpoint with the strings and the accordion; most of the solos are played on the exotic wind instruments; Middle Eastern, Indian and African percussions sound brightly in the rhythm section; there are such unexpected colors as the Scottish bagpipes. In a nutshell, you’ve got an "advanced" sound, the kind even the most well informed music fans would have difficulty to find analogy to.
ABOUT ALEXANDER TSAROVTSEV
"Doubtless, belongs to the world's Top 10 in his genre"
(Martin Walker, "The Guardian", Manchester)