Armed with styles as distinctive as their differing physical statures, tenor saxophonist Alexei Zoubov and guitarist Vadim Zilberstein told tales from jazz schools of the '40s through the '90s when they fronted a quartet Saturday at Legends of Hollywood.
Both Russian emigres, Zoubov, of medium height and build, and Zilberstein, a much larger and taller man, looked like a jazz version of Mutt and Jeff as they played mostly '40s and '50s classic stuff--Victor Young's "Beautiful Love," Charlie Parker's "Au Privave"--but with a definite modern flavor. They were backed solidly by bassist Eric Von Essen and house drummer Bob Marks, owner of Legends, a Hollywood delicatessen that features jazz on its window-front stage Fridays-Sundays.
Though the saxophonist's grand, expansive tone was reminiscent of the sonic girth of men like Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins, he played ideas that roamed from the Swing Era through be-bop into the area of expressionistic, structureless jazz. Zilberstein was clearly in a contemporary camp, offering a gritty, live-wire sound a la John Abercrombie and John Scofield and soloing in a manner that also included be-bop and free-form statements.
On "Beautiful Love," Zoubov let his thick sound soar and followed fluid phrases with a series of repetitions of a blues idea that led to a held-out pure high note. As he sustained the tone, Zilberstein played chunky, edgy chords underneath Zoubov, creating contrast and tension. On his solo, the guitarist explored his multistyle approach, swinging here, jabbing in with charged chords there.
Later, both men scored on ballads. The hornman's resonant tone brought the emotional messages of "My Foolish Heart" and "My Funny Valentine" right home, and Zilberstein weaved in an out of the melody as he warmly interpreted the former. Zoubov and Zilberstein are an engaging pair with a high degree of musicality. Like so many musicians in Los Angeles, they deserve more exposure.