“(Ilya) really is a talented trumpeter and a great singer. This guy has got the goods. Ilya Serov-remember that name.”—Dave Koz
Russian-born Ilya Serov is a young jazz musician with an old soul. Classically trained at the prestigious St. Petersburg Conservatory, trumpet player and vocalist Serov decided to follow his love of jazz, cultivated as a teenager in the Russian city of Saratov, by pursuing his dreams in the U.S. He now is building a following among fans and seasoned players alike as one of the scene’s budding new talents.
Serov’s new album, Back in Time, is an homage to the Big Band era and features classic tunes that showcase both his musical chops and vocal interpretive skills. The first single, “Swing 42,” featuring a duet with Grammy-winner and Oscar-nominated pianist Roger Kellaway, is a new take on the Django Reinhardttune. “Tangerine,” the second single, is a collaboration with Grammy-winning percussionist Poncho Sanchez. “C’est Si Bon,” the third single, is a reimagining of the French popular song and has background vocals by The Swing Kittens and piano work by Kellaway. “Old Devil Moon” is highlighted by a solo from Eric Marienthal, Grammy-winning sax player. The album is loaded with other classics that Serov has lovingly interpreted.
“(Ilya) is a great, great trumpet player and I love his voice,” Sanchez said. “Ilya has a great thing here because it’s commercial enough for the mainstream to enjoy and like but it’s hip enough for the jazz folks to like too because he’s a great trumpet player. He can sing the tunes and play them. That’s the edge he’s got.”
“Sinatra’s recordings fascinated me, and Chet Baker’s role in jazz as a player and a singer inspired me to explore a singing career in addition to my formal education as a trumpeter,” said Serov. “I found new angles, new tones, new colors and new messages in the songs that I’ve been playing for many years as a trumpeter.”
Serov discovered the trumpet at age seven while growing up in the Russian city of Saratov. His mother was an ardent classical music aficionado and he initially studied classical music. After an intense, five-year program at a demanding music academy, Serov won a rare and coveted scholarship to attend the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music (St. Petersburg, Russia). His talent as a classical trumpet player led to performances with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, St. Petersburg State Symphony and the St. Petersburg State Opera Theater.
Ilya first encountered jazz as a teenager by exchanging tapes and records with friends and fellow musicians. While at the conservatory in St. Petersburg, he explored the jazz club scene, which stoked his love of the music even more. His earliest jazz influence was Arturo Sandoval and he subsequently discovered Chet Baker, Miles Davis and the vocal stylings of Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole, incorporating those sounds and influences into his music.
At 21, Ilya moved to the Los Angeles area, where he honed his craft by performing with church orchestras and playing symphony gigs. He gave private trumpet lessons and did various other jobs while pursuing music as a profession. In 2013, he recorded his debut album, September in the Rain, a big band outing made up entirely of vocal numbers.
One of the key moments of Ilya’s career was meeting Dave Koz at a Starlight Foundation benefit concert. Impressed with Ilya’s talent, Koz helped him get a gig at the respected jazz club Spaghettini. That led to performances at other notable Los Angeles spots, including Catalina Bar & Grill.
In 2018, Ilya performed on the Dave Koz and Friends at Sea Jazz Cruise, playing solo shows and appearing with some great jazz musicians, including Dave, Michael Lington, David Benoit, Larry Graham, Peter White and Jonathan Butler. On the floating jazz fest he also played solo shows and a Young Rising Stars concert.
Ilya is dedicated to both preserving jazz as an American treasure and exploring new dimensions in the music. In collaboration with Taylor Trumpets’ Andy Taylor, he has developed an entirely new instrument, the Jazz-o-horn.
“It has an interesting, unique sound and its own vibe. I’m particularly excited about the tone of the instrument created from a flugelhorn base. Specifically, I plan to use it on my new contemporary jazz recordings. It has a color palette as nuanced and as groundbreaking as the design of the instrument itself. When I first played it, there was a sense of newness and innovation about it. I felt a rare chemistry and bond with it,” said Serov about the custom made, one-of-a-kind horn.
After Back in Time, Ilya plans a smooth jazz recording with self-penned material (and featuring the Jazz-o-horn). His goal is to explore all forms of jazz, including smooth jazz. He will also be returning to the Dave Koz and Friends at Sea Jazz Cruise in 2019, performing alongside notables Tower of Power, BeBe Winans and other respected players.
“I love all forms of this music,” he said. By going Back in Time, Ilya Serov is moving jazz forward.
Visit www.ilyaserov.com for more information.