Band bringing local jazz to Russia

Local band Eight 02 is set to perform in Yaroslavl, Russia in March. (Observer courtesy photo)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

The musicians of local jazz band Eight 02 are gearing up to trade Williston’s snow and cold for a cold, snowy city on the other side of the globe.

The group is headed to Yaroslavl, Russia—one of Burlington’s sister cities—for its Jazz on the Volga Festival early next month. Before they get there, though, they will hold a benefit concert in Williston to raise money for the sister city program and airfare for them and their instruments.

Eight 02 will perform a bonus concert in the Brick Church Music Series, set for Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Old Brick Church.

Williston resident and keyboardist Peter Engisch said Eight 02 was performing in Vergennes when a representative from the program approached them.

“Somebody from the Burlington Sister City nonprofit came up and said, ‘So, how’d you guys like to go to Russia?’ We all laughed, because we thought he was kidding, and said ‘Sure!’ He looked at us and said, Well, I’m serious,’” Engisch said.

Yaroslavl became Burlington’s sister city in 1988. Since then, athletes, entertainers, mayors, firefighters, artists, nurses, librarians, business people and other representatives have participated in exchange visits.

“We believe in people to people diplomacy,” said Larry Stevens, president of Burlington-Yarolslavl Sister Cities. “We know that people from different areas and countries getting together and getting to know one another other makes a huge difference as to their perspectives of those people from other countries.”

Stevens said the organization is based on the advancement of understanding between different cultures, not politics.

“There’s a lot of benefit in education and in cultural understanding,” he said. “That’s really what we’re all about.”

Burlington also has sister cities in Palestine, Israel, Canada, France, Mississippi, Japan and Nicaragua. It also has “sister lakes” to Lake Champlain—Lake Toba in Indonesia and Lake Ohrid on the border of Macedonia and Albania.

Engisch said band members—Engisch, guitar player Jerome Monachino, drummer Luke Adler and saxophone player Christopher Peterman—have spoken with people who have participated in the program, especially fellow musicians.

“It’s just been a phenomenal trip for anybody who does it,” he said. “They love American jazz there.”

Eight 02 will spend a week in Yaroslavl, playing almost every night.

“First and foremost, we look forward to experiencing the Russian culture and hospitality,” Engisch said.

“We’re excited about bringing our music to Russia and the jazz fans over there,” he added. “They’re just such rabid fans for American jazz…. It’s going to be a unique experience to play in front of that kind of audience that are really known for hanging on every note.”

Engisch said band members are also looking forward to providing a good image of their home state.

“That’s the other special thing we’re looking forward to, going over there and representing Vermont in the best way we can,” Engisch said. “We’re pretty proud of that.”

While the group prepares for its Russian performance, it is also working on putting together an album. The band recently traveled to Los Angeles to work with jazz legends Jimmy Haslip and Jeff Lorber.

“Working with these guys in LA was such a thrill,” Engisch said. “Each day went so well and they were so good to us and the collaboration was so good…. You’re just sitting there working with a couple of your idols. You really do have to pinch yourself.”

To bring its music to Russian jazz fans, Eight 02 needs to raise a little more than $6,000, and is halfway there, Engisch said. All proceeds from the Feb. 27 concert will benefit the Burlington Sister Cities Program and go toward the band’s airfare.

The next Brick Church Music Series concert is set for Feb. 13, and features the Bruce Sklar Trio. Tickets for all shows are $12 in advance and $14 at the door for adults, $10 in advance and $12 at the door for seniors and children under 12. Advance tickets are available on the town website, or at the town clerk’s office.