In a Big City is a debut studio album by Igor Kogan, composed for jazz quintet, featuring all original compositions, with special guest artist 9-time GRAMMY Award nominee jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton.
The album comprises personal reflections of Kogan’s own experiences, living in different places. He was born and grew up in Russia, then moved to Israel at the age of fifteen. Later moved to the U.S. and lived several years in New York, later moving to Los Angeles. Kogan says, “all places I lived in are ‘Big Cities,’ and the main move which is most related to the music in the album is the move from Israel to the U.S., nine years ago. It is profoundly personal and is when I began my professional music career.”
Each song thoughtfully reflects the journey and personal experience of this life-changing move. Beginning with “Takeoff,” a traditional, steady/confident, and optimistic piece, that emotes a feeling of forward-motion for good. When the airplane physically takes off the ground, and you are also taking off mentally, filled with new beginnings, big hopes, and fulfilling dreams. The composition reflects this opening song and highlights each player on a solo as an introduction. “Qwerty aka False Start” examines the emotion of a new start, a new beginning as it were, the feeling of unsettled emotions which symbolizes some bumps and unexpected things that you were not aware of and situations not exactly as expected.A quick tempo represents the fast pace needed to keep up with big city life.
Furthering the storyline of the album “Expectations,” written in 3/4 meter, is an up-tempo waltz in an uplifting mood, and the name speaks for itself, the expectations of new life. “Illumination” is a ballad, a very calming and meditative piece; that sheds light on the essential things in life and gives a little break from the chaotic reality of big city life, which we all need sometimes. “Emergency Call” is representative of a worrisome feeling, a piece, based on a repetitive pattern of the phone beep you hear when trying to reach out to loved ones in an emergency situation and not getting an answer, but instead hearing long beeps on the other side, further codifying the unsettling reality and uncertainty of a big city, and being far from home by yourself.
“Bass Introduction” leading into “New York Blues” (On the recording session, they were recorded as one piece, featuring an open bass solo in the beginning). Kogan, being a bass player, wanted to do a featurette to signify himself as the album’s composer and bandleader of the project. It also symbolizes the introduction as his first album as a bandleader. “New York Blues” signifies his time spent in New York, and is a tribute to traditional jazz styles. Although the song’s form is not a classic blues, it has a 6/8 bluesy feel to it, hence its title. Generally speaking, his approach to the album is a mix of “traditional jazz” (instrumentation, arranging, some of the compositions), whereas some of the tunes represent a “contemporary jazz” sound, which overall reflects respect to the jazz tradition but also finds new ways of expression.
“Vocalise” features 9-time GRAMMY Award nominee Tierney Sutton in a wordless piece that highlights the voice equally as an instrument. Kogan had Sutton in mind when writing the composition, knowing her voice would aptly fit the task stylistically. The tune begins with a free improvisational dialogue between bass and vocal that sets up the melodic theme of the piece. The song builds up dynamically and emotionally all through the piece, starting with a gentle bass solo and picks up with a more intensive vocal solo and finally a flugelhorn solo creates an emotional climax. Kogan remarks, “I loved the sonic mix of Tierney’s voice with the flugelhorn and decided to utilize this sonority without the saxophone on this track.”
The final track “Big City” is the title track that concludes the album. It is written in several mixed meters of 5/8, 3/4 and 4/4, giving it an edgy feel, and ending the collection with the ‘big city’ vibe – always tricky and unexpected, and never settling down. The song presents all the players featured on solos as a conclusion and representation of everyone involved.