It was the mid-80s in the Bay Area and there was a classically-trained Russian pianist named Andrei Kitaev who had just come to Berkeley from Moscow. Andrei grew up in Moscow and came upon jazz via the Voice of America broadcasts he picked up. He was studying at a grand Russian musical institute yet he was attracted to the sounds of American jazz. He married an American woman and landed in Berkeley when I lived there in the early 80s. We became good friends through the efforts of my SF friend Jim Kirk.He was trained as a classical pianist at some great institute of music in Moscow. Until he heard the piano of Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock through the late night Voice of America broadcast service. Andrei somehow married an American woman and landed in Berkeley, California, just north of where I lived in Piedmont, California.
I produced and distributed a Jazz Newsletter and hung around the Bay Area jazz scene while maintaining my job at one of the world’s largest corporations.Working in downtown San Francisco was exciting as it might be for many young men. But after a few years with the big corporation I realized that it was not for me. I left and went on my own and established a marketing consuting company called Pacific Marketing Strategies. I wanted to call it simply PMS but (luckily) had a female logo designer.
Sometime before I left the big corporation, I discovered the music of McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane. For me, the “key” into their music was Tyner’s 1978 album Inner Voices. Around this time, I became close friends with Andrei through my friend Jim. I even produced The Andrei Kitaev Trio at Larry Blakes in Berkeley. And, more than a few nights, Andrei played the upright spinet Cable Nelson piano at my place in the Oakland Hills. Ralph Gleason’s wonderful wife Jeannie Gleason was at my event and what a wonderful, gracious woman she was. Andrei was all over my Cable Nelson piano for many nights we hung around together.
There was a cheap, used record store in Berkeley at this time where almost any jazz album could be found and purchased for a dollar.
I always gave Andrei all my McCoy Tyner and Horace Silver albums.
It was wonderful to hear Andrei’s music begin to reflect elements of the great jazz pianists I did everything I knew to put him in contact with them.
Andrei is still knocking them dead in Portland, Oregon. Listen to Andrei’s amazing rendition of the jazz standard “Wave” recently recorded in Portland.