Consider Valery Ponomarev, the Russian émigré trumpeter who immediately preceded Wynton Marsalis in the Jazz Messengers. Abandoning the land of giant steppes for the Harvard of hard bop should have made Ponomarev something of a celebrity . . .. [On Trip To Moscow] Ponomarev is writing relaxed lines with inviting twists that are straight out of the Blakey/Silver axis. He is also blowing with a wide, cozy sound and ideas that . . . never outstrip his technique.
The first major Russian jazz musician to make an impression in the United States, Valery Ponomarev has always had an attractive tone, a swinging style, and a strong interest in keeping the hard bop legacy of Clifford Brown alive. He played as regularly as possible in the Soviet Union, recording for the Melodiya label and appearing at jazz festivals until defecting in 1973.
Four years later, he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, a perfect outlet for his style, from 1977-1980; he recorded nine albums with Blakey for such labels as Roulette, Timeless, and Concord. Ponomarev has since freelanced, usually leading his own quintets and recording extensively for Reservoir.