Review of the 95 Blues Berry Way band

by Valera Berman

95 Blues Berry Way band is an unusual and exciting happening on the Russian/American musical scene.  To begin with, the group’s members are all very talented musicians united by the great taste and passion for the music they create.  Their compositions possess a quality rare these days of interesting, fresh and meaningful poetry married with original, tasty and very melodic music.

I spent time with the band during one of the rehearsals.  With 95BBW, things that really impressed me were friendly, constructive working environment, musicianship, and creative yet focused atmosphere.  From my own experience with various musical groups, I know the importance of chemistry of the members in the band.  Individual dedications to the common musical goals and the success of the band are manifested yet by another unusual fact – most of them live in different states (all connected by Interstate 95 – hence the name 95BBW).  All have very interesting and demanding careers in mathematics, physics, medical research and computers.  The name of the band might as well be 95BBW, Ph.D. since all of the members are Ph.D.’s in their respective fields.  They have families, children and related responsibilities and nonetheless, almost without exception, the group meets once a month for a rehearsal / jam session.

Evgenii Borovikov authors most of the poetry and music.  Some of it nostalgically remind me of the much loved ballads of “Mashina Vremeni.”  Other pieces pay homage to another passion of mine – Bossa Nova.  One of my favorites in the band’s repertoire is a piece created by the bass player Nail Gumerov to a translated version of a poem by R. Kipling called “Mandalay.”  Here, as in other pieces, I was impressed by quality of the composition, musical phrasing, syncopated rim shots, haunting guitar and keyboard solos, engaging vocals, and how it all worked together.

A good rhythm section is responsible for the half of the success of any band.  Here it is superbly manned by Victor Yakovenko on drums and Nail Gumerov on the bass guitar.  Anton Karnaukh is a technically advanced jazz guitarist who is well-versed in vocals.  Vladimir Ponomarev is an accomplished keyboard and piano player.  Yevgenii Borovikov is the bandleader, poet, composer, excellent guitarist and lead vocal.

One of the most sought after bass players of the Moscow musical scene of the late 80’s –Alexander Bogdanovsky, one time member of the Alexei Kozlov’s “Arsenal,” once told me, that of the penultimate importance in any band is for the members to be all (as he put it) “fellows.”  They definitely are in 95BBW.

It is obvious after listening to the 95BBW that they all love what they do.  The atmosphere of youthful enthusiasm was contagious and enveloped the audience during the last concert at Knizhnik’s in Philadelphia on April 3, 2004.  95BBW is definitely the one to keep our collective eyes on for more great music.  Best of luck and inspiration to them.

17 June 2004