Prog has produced a raft of gifted keyboard players, many of whom have received high level training. Rick Wakeman went to the Royal College Of Music and Geoff Downes to the acclaimed Leeds College Of Music. Gleb Kolyadin, ivory maestro in iamthemorning, is also conservatoire-trained, and does it show. Anathema’s Dan Cavanagh claims Kolyadin is “the single greatest pianist I’ve met”, and this solo debut showcases his dazzling talents.
The inevitable question is, “Does Kolyadin’s album sound like iamthemorning sans the magnificent Marjana?” Answer? Nay, nay, and thrice, nay. Certainly, there are characteristic Kolyadin motifs. White Dawn showcases his effortless grasp of modern and classical technique, combining flowing repetitions with the formality of Bach. In that mode, Kolyadin is unfettered by the demands of song-based prog.
If this debut stopped there, it would be enough. However, the heart-pounding centre of the album is two-fold. It showcases Kolyadin’s gift for progressive yet accessible jazz and it contains some collaborations with prog royalty.
Insight and Kaleidoscope are mighty parcels of keys-driven jazz. Insight opens with a piano riff that has the pool-like clarity of Lyle Mays. Like Mays, Kolyadin balances virtuosity with melody. Kaleidoscope is an even wilder beast, in which Kolyadin’s waspish keys make a dangerous dance with Tatiana Dobovaya’s wordless vox and Theo Travis’ flute.
This is music to test the sharpest musician, and Kolyadin’s backing band, which includes Nick Beggs and Vlad Avy, is a wonder to behold. It’s the collaborations, however, that amaze. The mighty Steve Hogarth brings an icy power to Confluence, H’s spoken words creating a slow, moving vortex of sound. It’s beautiful and intense. On album closer, The Best Of Days, H sings, ‘We forget the storm beyond the bubble’, yet still offers hope. The collaboration with Jordan Rudess has him throwing searing metallic keys all over Kolyadin’s jazzy arrangements. Yet it’s Astral Architecture, the collaboration with Mick Moss, that’s the real surprise. It’s dark and sparse, and Moss’ vulnerable voice reminds us that Kolyadin may be a virtuoso, but he’s unafraid to be an accompanist.
Solo albums are seen as, understandably, side-projects. However, Kolyadin’s debut is a revelation. Any sensible prog fan will want more from iamthemorning, but this effort sets an exceptional standard. The album cover shows Kolyadin, blindfolded, surrounded by notation. It suggests that this music comes from deep within his soul. What treasure lies there.