All That Jazz


Profile. No. 13 (569) of April 7th, 2008

  • Maria Tarasevich is a bold person. She has never been afraid of trying out new things. She was the first Russian model to become a Playmate of the month. However, a Playboy photo session was just one episode in her mainly jazz oriented career.  

    - Maria, you have spent so many years in jazz, but the first thing that comes to mind when they say your name is you being a Playmate of the month for Playboy. Do you find this fair? 

    - I have realized that this is unavoidable, though it happened 11 years ago. Before my picture was on the Playboy cover, I graduated with honors from the Gnesin Higher Music College majoring in vocal performance and had been working for 19 years with MKS Big Band under the guidance of Anatoly Kroll, my instructor. About that time Playboy announced its first Russian playmate award. 

    I wrote a letter to the editor with my pictures taken by my friend, Valeriy Plotnikov, a famous Russian photographer. The rest was easy. I told the jury about myself in English and sang jazz, which was a complete success with Americans. The photo session was at night in Ploshad Revolutsii Metro station, where foreigners were allowed for the first time outside the regular working hours. A trip to Los Angeles followed to the mansion of Hugh Hefner (Playboy owner – Profi), as well as covers in The New York Times Magazine and other western publications. That was an interesting experience, but that’s all it was. 

    - And what means more for you – jazz? 

    - At the end of last year I and my friend and promoter Anna Balasheva opened a production company All That Jazz, which arranges concerts for Russian and world jazz stars. 

    - Is it just a coincidence that your project started right when Le Club, where Igor Butman was an art director, closed? 

    - I have been working with Igor for 8 years and we have just made a CD together – Moondance. In 1996 I was at Bulgakov club, which was popular at that time, and heard Butman play the saxophone. Later Sergey Mazaev suggested that we should work together and arranged a meeting. At that time jazz wasn’t popular, there was almost no audience at concerts, but thanks to Butman things started to improve. 

    - Do Jazz evenings with Maria Tarasevich have a good audience? 

    - We started in the Gorky restaurant. Every week we have a full house. There are people, who come every week – noted politicians, businessmen, show business stars. They call in advance to find out who is going to sing next time. 

    - Are you going to sing yourself? 

    - My repertoire includes classic jazz, which I of course sing with may own arrangement. Even the noted Besame Mucho sounds very different with me and Butman. But I have never tried to overdo myself in jazz, go beyond my natural abilities. 

    - There has been a tendency to sing for everyone lately – stylists, politicians, figure skaters. Is that so easy to sing that you do not even need any special training? 

    - Training and education are always desirable. Jazz is difficult to sing without any training in music. There are of course those unique talents, who can improvise. 

    - Yes, and these talents are born in Harlem.

    - That’s right. And popular music can assumingly be performed by everyone. So everyone does sing. Of course, our stars think that this will make them more popular. They use it as some kind of advertising, PR.

    - What are your creative plans for now? 

    - I would like to record a CD with slow love melodies. I even have a name for it – Sentimental Mood. 

    Anna Gorbashova