A major force in Russian jazz since the mid '90s, Yakov Okun is one of the most respected jazz pianists within the jazz community. He was the first Russian piano player and composer to release his debut album on the renowned Criss Cross label. A hereditary jazz musician, Yakov Okun is a conscientious adherent of stylistic purity. This is why his creativity embodies a wild combination of Russian music heritage and refined American jazz classics in a form of something completely natural.
Born to a family of a prominent Soviet jazz pianist Mikhail Okun, Yakov quickly adopted interest in music. Having a chance to hear his father's record collection that included records of jazz legends which were extremely rare for USSR, he grew up to switch from classical music to jazz by entering the variety jazz department of Gnesin college of music in 1988. After graduating in 1992, Okun started his professional career in the arduous times when jazz music experienced total oblivion.
In 1998 Yakov Okun found his trio, MosGorTrio (acronym from Moscow City Trio), with two young though skillful musicians, Makar Novikov on bass and Alexander Mashin on drums. Mashin is considered to be one of the best jazz drummers throughout Russia, and Makar Novikov has rapidly become one of the most asked-for double bass players in Russia during the last decade.
Yakov Okun himself gained perfect reputation from visiting American jazz stars, representatives of mainstream jazz, who call for Okun's band exactly while touring in Russia. James Spaulding, Lew Tabackin, Larry Schneider,Gary Smulyan, Steve Slagle, Craig Handy, Jeremy Pelt, Deborah Brown and Giacomo Gates are among them.
Quickly after its foundation MosGorTrio started touring around the world and appeared on stages of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Greece, Switzerland, USA, UK and Germany.
In 2011 Yakov Okun received an invitation from the on Criss Cross Jazz label to record and release his debut album entitled New York Encounter. The recording took place in New York City by a stunning trio of Yakov Okun himself, Ben Street (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums). It both showed Okun's search in interpreting the likes of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Fats Waller, and included some of his own originals.
As it has been said in the liner notes of the CD, Okun as a "bebop devotee who doesn't play licks, inhabits a broad timeline of vocabulary with deep soul, a sense of humor, and an endless will to swing, and executes his ideas with crisp authority, nuanced touch, and imaginative flair". Speaking of Yakov Okun, you couldn't put it better.