Q&A with Ukrainian harmonicist Konstantin Kolesnichenko - distinctive and modern mix of Blues & Jazz

"I think blues music helps to break boundaries between all those aspects. It's common interest and love between a millions people all over the world and that make it so important as a root music."

Konstantin Kolesnichenko: Ha(r)ppiness

Leading Ukrainian harmonica player Konstantin Kolesnichenko's distinctive and modern style of harmonica won him the recognition of other musicians and a spot among top Ukrainian harmonica players. At different times he got acclaim from world famous musicians including Guy Davis, Adam Gussow, Jason Ricci, Pierre Lacocque, PT Gazell, Jelly Roll Johnson, Dennis Moriarty, Bartosz Leczycki, and Keith Dunn to name a few. Native Dnipropetrovsk, Kostantin's career has spanned 12 years. He began playing harmonica at age 19. In 2008 he joined the Bullet Blues Band - a local Chicago blues band and acoustic duo with guitarist Oleg Lavrik. The band opened for such greats as Guy Davis, Keith Dunn, Robert Lighthouse, Daniel Jeanrenaud, Mikhail Mishouris blues band, Max Tavricheskiy, and so on. He took part in the first international harmonica festival in Kiev, Ukraine in 2011.

In 2014 he released his first album "If You Want to See This Blues". This album was a mix of blues and jazz and got a lot of positive feedback from the fans and other musicians. The next album "Sweeten It Up" was released in 2015. This all-instrumental EP shows Konstantin Kolesnichenko's tasty harmonica and features a jazzy quartet. Konstantin offered his own interpretation of the five world-famous songs which got an interesting touch of harmonica sound. In 2016 he released his third album "Hypnotized!". A hot jazzy-blues album which is played in organ combo format with swinging guitar, wailing organ, jazzy drums, and honking harmonica.  Konstantin is well known in Ukrainian, Russian, and Belorussian harmonica communities. And he's got his audience in the US and Europe as well.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues music and culture influenced your views of the world? What does ‘The Blues’ mean to you?

I'm not a bluesman in popular point of view. "Wine, women and whisky" is not about me. But the whole world is going in different directions now. I think my main mission and goal to make something for saving of this music. I really love history of this music, in the past and present.

How do you describe your sound and songbook? What touched (emotionally) you from the sound of harmonica?

I just love amplified harmonica sound so much. I love acoustic sound of harmonica too but I don't play without my astatic mic in the public often. It must be not too dirty with a lot of distortion. Just soft overdrive that makes harmonica sound so fat. This sound just makes me happy. My main influences are Paul Delay, Willis Jackson, Little Walter, Grant Green, Bill Jennings, Tiny Grimes, William Clarke, George Smith, Jimmy Forrest, The Crusaders and much more. I love different music from different periods.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice has given you?

I think the most important meeting when I met my current band members. The things changed for me as musician when I started playing with the band 9 years ago. I needed to play more accurately. I needed to learn to listen to the other band members. Also I think the day when I met musicians from my last album is very important for me. It's not my current band but they are cool jazz cats from my town. It's a very good experience for me. I think my best advices I’ve got from listening to a lot of music. Music is the best teacher by itself.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

My most bright memory was playing with great Guy Davis! He just threw his harmonica to me and called to join him on the stage. It was a blast!

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the times when blues music was not like a rare bird. You know there were a lot of bands and everyone was making music. From what I’ve read in the books: you can play in one club, later go to another one and so on until the dawn. I wish I could be there in that place in that time. I'm speaking about California or Chicago scene in the 40s and 50s.

I think blues is a strong enough to continue living in 21st century. I hope it get the new revival like it was in 60s and 90s.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Ukraine. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

I believe the most interesting period is in the future. We have so little bands here and Ukrainian blues scene only starts to grow. We have a very small amount of the blues musicians but we’ve already made small blues festivals and world-famous musicians played in Ukraine: Bob Margolin, John Nemeth, Melvin Taylor, Lucky Peterson, Matyas Pribojszki, Keith Dunn to name a few.

"I think my main mission and goal to make something for saving of this music. I really love history of this music, in the past and present." (Photo: Konstantin and his band on stage)

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from US and UK to Ukraine?

I think it's all about music lovers and records. It came to us from vinyl era. Now with the Internet you can learn blues from any place in the world.

Are there any similarities between the blues and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms?

I consider that roots of the blues and Ukrainian folk music are similar in some cases. I mean they both came from hardworking people and slavery. Ukrainian folk and blues have different musical traditions but cultural aspect is quite close.

What is the impact of the Blues music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

I think blues music helps to break boundaries between all those aspects. It's common interest and love between a millions people all over the world and that make it so important as a root music.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day..?

I wanna jam with Muddy! I hope he would have liked my playing!

Konstantin Kolesnichenko - Home

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