All That Jazz

I’ve had many wonderful experiences in Kyiv but one of the best has been unexpectedly rediscovering jazz music. I’ve always been a jazz fan – especially live performances but sadly, it’s been challenging for years in Canada. The pandemic caused many clubs to close their doors and the regional jazz festivals struggle to attract title corporate sponsorship.

I certainly hadn’t associated Ukraine with jazz before I arrived, but after several swinging weekends at 32 Jazz Club, I’ve changed my tune.

You don’t need the A-train

Just over a month ago a good Ukrainian friend of mine told me about a club she’d heard of from some colleagues. It turns out that 32 Jazz Club is a short walk from my hotel so I decided to investigate, much to the chagrin of my friend who left Kyiv before being able to go herself.

The club is an absolutely perfect place to watch live music, especially jazz. Cozy and intimate, the room hosts three shows a week on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. A small stage is fronted by twenty candlelit tables and the show starts at 6 pm sharp and ends at 8:00. Why only two hours? To give staff and patrons time to get safely home before the 11 pm Kyiv curfew.

Music makes the world go ’round

The bands range from a rockabilly group lead by a twangy guitarist with a voice similar to Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats, to a quartet with an incredible alto saxophonist belting out Coltrane compostitions. Another group, Blowin’ like Hell, is led by a harmonica player backed by eleven top-notch musicians.

The bands have one thing in common however. They’re all comprised of a frontman or woman, backed by stand-in musicians. Unfortunately, live music is also a war victim as many of groups have lost members who joined the military to fight for Ukraine’s freedom.

I’ve now been to the club five times and have seen many recycled band members playing new tunes and styles they’d just learned. It’s a testament to the incredible talent these musicians possess that they’re able to play multiple genres with revolving bandmates, yet still swing like they’re bopping at Birdland in NYC.

Every week there are three new bands performing and every show is sold out. No matter how tough life gets during wartime, music always soothes and inspires. The fact that jazz is alive and well in Kyiv is yet another reason to support the brave people and musicians of Ukraine fighting to preserve their human right to live and play.