Catching up with Anastasia Ivanova

Garry Berman
9 min readApr 15, 2024

Many jazz fans might be surprised to learn that traditional American jazz has continued to thrive in parts of the world not usually associated with the American art form. One of Moscow’s brightest jazz stars, Anastasia Ivanova, is an outstanding musician and friend with whom we’ve spoken before, and who is about to celebrate a milestone of sorts for her career: her first CD release of some of the music that long ago won her devotion.

Anastasia came to the attention of many jazz fans outside of Russia when she joined the Sant Andreu Jazz Band in Barcelona for two of the SAJB’s Jazzing festivals — first in 2019, when she played as an “honorary” band member for the week, taking part in concerts, jam sessions, and recordings, and again in 2021 as a guest musician, performing alongside such highly-regarded American jazz veterans as Scott Hamilton and Dena DeRose.

We first detailed Anastasia’s life as a musician — including her visits to Barcelona—in this article below, and updated last year:

Did Someone Say Anastasia Ivanova? | by Garry Berman | Medium

Now, she would like to spread the word about her new 6-song EP, Anastasia Ivanova Plays Jazz Queens, which she recorded in the summer of 2023.

“It’s all because of Anna Levkovtseva. She is a Russian jazz pianist but now she lives in Serbia. She left last summer and before she went away, she said that she wanted to make some recordings with me, just for our memories. And her idea was to dedicate the recordings to the girls in jazz.”

The women honored on the CD are perhaps not commonly known by today’s jazz fans: Lil Hardin, once the wife of and collaborator with Louie Armstrong; Lovie Austin, Chicago bandleader, pianist, singer, and arranger during the 1920s blues era; Mary Lou Williams, pianist, composer and arranger of over one hundred recordings (and who has two of her songs appearing on the new CD); Terry Pollard, a pianist and vibraphonist who gained her greatest fame with vibes virtuoso Terry Gibbs in the 1950s; and Valaida Snow, multi-instrumentalist (specializing in trumpet) reaching the peak of her fame in the ’20s and ‘30s.

Mary Lou Williams.

“There are so many good songs and women artists that we don’t know, who were creating back then,” Anastasia says, “I just listen with pleasure and attention, and we chose all the songs together.”

They recorded in a professional studio. “There is a flat with four rooms, one for each musician — one with drums, grand piano…we were all playing in the separate rooms, but we heard each other and played together, live. It took two days.”

Her musician friends recommended where she could have CDs pressed of the recordings. “And I contacted the designer, and we came up with the picture of me.”

With Anna Levkovtseva in 2022.

Despite already having a great deal of experience playing with the best in jazz (and she is only 23), Anastasia is excited to have a CD release under her name, even though it’s a new challenge. She acknowledges that she’s still learning the process. “I’ve recorded many things but never anything like this. I asked my Instagram followers to help me.” She says a fan of her music from elsewhere in Russia has been providing help with the logistics of the release.

Below is the link to pre-order the album, with audio samples:

‎Plays Jazz Queens — EP — Album by Anastasia Ivanova & Anna Levkovtseva Trio — Apple Music

The EP will be released on April 30 — International Jazz Day — and will be available on Apple Music, Spotify, and other platforms.

The CD units themselves will, unfortunately, be available only in Russia, with Anastasia selling copies at her concerts (she hopes she may be able to send copies to Levkovsteva to sell in Serbia).

It’s possible that the recording of more CDs is in Anastasia’s future, either on disc or online. “I have some good recordings that, if I learn how to do that by myself, I’m going to post more music because I have the material. I have everything, I just don’t know how to post it.”

Having played in all kinds of venues, she considered the question of whether she has a preference between playing in small clubs or concert halls. “It depends on my mood, sometimes it’s good for the soul and experience to play for free with great musicians [in clubs], it doesn’t matter what money you get. But when you get much money, it’s always good!”

She spoke of a recent club gig, the video of which she has posted online.

once at the bix | Instagram

“At that club, nobody really cared what you played — they were talking, drinking, and for me as a person who doesn’t really drink much, I don’t understand all that. I never go to the clubs and drink.” But she takes it in stride. “That is a part of my job and I try just to hear my musicians and learn something. We learn new songs…we enjoy every moment. I play like that often, and I enjoy it, and I also enjoy playing on the big stage, where there is good sound, and people buy tickets!”

As for how the rest of 2024 looks for her, “I have many projects — I play basically where people ask me, and not always jazz…I’ll study and play concerts as usual, would like to post more music online, maybe record some more live video.”

She seems busier now that her name is becoming more widely known. “I guess so,” she says. “I have more concerts outside of Moscow, but I clearly need to learn much. I think I need to still study at the university. I study classical music, and I really want to play more classical music in the orchestra. And I also want to play more Dixieland. There is a great trumpeter from Russia who now lives in New York, named Konstantin Gevondyan. Before he moved to New York we played together often and I learned a lot about Dixieland. Now he lives in New York and has a life of a musician there, but his band stayed in Moscow, it’s called Moscow Ragtime Band. Recently I’ve started to play with the band and I love it! All the musicians are great professionals. I have the musical role of a trombonist there and it’s quite challenging — it’s another feeling when there are some other horns around you, and you communicate through this music.”

She usually doesn’t sing with the group and says performing as a musician without singing is a little more difficult, “but you can learn much more. There is a special audience that comes especially for Dixieland. You can feel that support because they listen and applaud, and this music makes me really happy.”

Does classical come with a different sort of mood than jazz — perhaps a more “serious” one?

“I think it’s another degree of difficulty, but that’s what I like. I like challenges, of course. If you go to a classical orchestra, you need to know what’s going on in the orchestra, who’s going to play solo, and you need to know your solos, learn your part, basically. But I have that feeling even when I play in a jazz orchestra, too, sometimes. If it’s a good jazz orchestra, you need to know your part.”

She continues to lead her own small group. “I still work with my band, and it’s more difficult for me to choose the right musicians because the great musicians I want to play with are always busy. They want to play with me, but they have their own plans…I play with the good students at the academy, and we learn together.”

Playing “How High the Moon” on the Russian TV music competition “The Big Jazz” in 2022. She made it to the finals — and won.

Anastasia’s recent photo shoots present her with an air Hollywood glamour, brought into the jazz world. Some images are quite exotic. She feels that first impressions matter, especially with audiences not as familiar with jazz, or with female jazz musicians. “It’s important how you look,” she explains. “People see the picture, and they don’t care what music it is. When you go onstage, first they see a beautiful girl with trombone, then she plays something beautiful…It’s part of show business.”

A few years ago, she posted these thoughts on how jazz has made such a difference in her life:

“I have had the opportunity to travel around Russia, Spain, England and playing the music I so dearly love … Jazz. We all see the same blue sky, are warmed by the same Sun, it is the same moon that lights our pathways at night. All of this despite us having different languages, different cultures and customs. Jazz has thought me of our human connections, our sameness. My wish is that I can be an influence on some young person coming up behind me who likes my music, no matter their language, to learn the language of jazz so all on this planet Earth, can communicate and tell our stories through this global medium we call jazz.”

Until next time…

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Garry Berman

Pop Culture historian, Freelance Writer, Author, specializing in American comedy history in films, radio, and TV. Beatles and jazz enthusiast, animal lover.