Oleg Butman. Where it all began.

Oleg Butman is one of the most outstanding jazz drummers nowadays who won the audience of both continents: America and Russia. He was born in a family of musicians  in St. Petersburg on July 9, 1966 in St-Petersburg (Russia). Oleg started playing drums at the age of 8 and by only 15 he was invited to work professionally for a famous Russian rock group. In 1983 Oleg entered Mussorgsky Musical College in St. Petersburg (1983-1987) and immediately became a permanent drummer in the student orchestra. In the fall of 1983 he performed at the «Autumn Rhythms» Jazz Festival in the sax player Valery Zhukov’s ensemble. As the youngest participant of the festival he drew the attention of the prominent jazz violinist David Goloshekin, who invited Oleg to play in his band. As a student, Oleg also played in the Igor Butman’s Quartet (1984-1987).

In 1988 Oleg was invited to play with American star Richie Cole on his Russian tour. Later in 1988 Oleg moved to Moscow where he immediately becomes involved in several different projects. He led an active concert life performing with many American stars coming to Russia such as John Feddis, Billy Taylor, Grover Washington, and Pat Metheny. In the same year Oleg is invited to record for Vyacheslav Nazarov’s «Letter to the friend» CD.

In 1990 Oleg moved to the US with the expressed goal of raising his professional level. He takes private lessons from the best teachers of Berklee College of Music (Boston, Massachusetts). Later he moved to New York where his bright, dynamic and expert musical playing of a Russian drummer does not go unnoticed by NYC musicians. He is invited to play with the bands of Joe Lock, Eddie Gomez, Andy Lovern and Ron Affif at different times. His friendly and communicative style helped him to make interesting and creative contacts amongst new musical friends and associates.


In 1998 Oleg tours in Russia with the project «Four Brothers» (The Brothers Butman and Brothers Ivanov). After the incredible reception from these concerts, an album was produced and released bearing the same project name.

In 2001 he returns to Russia with his American quartet accompanied by the outstanding tenor saxophonist Craig Handy. Then follows a series of performances with other famous jazz musicians such as the guitarist Mark Whitfield, saxophonist Vincent Herring, and pianist Larry Willis. All the concerts are a stunning success as a grateful Russian Jazz public is ecstatic to see such famous jazz artists. Oleg becomes such a welcomed guest in the Russian jazz scene, he must spend more and more time in Russia. During subsequent years Oleg continues to amaze an already sophisticated Russian Jazz public with his new and interesting projects with different American guests.

In 2007 a new album was recorded after a long tour around the country as a member of a trio with Daniel Kramer (piano, Russia) and Richie Goods (bass, USA).

Also, in 2007 Oleg meets the talented young pianist Natalia Smirnova inviting her to join his group, and together they start writing music. From this collaboration comes Oleg Butman’s project «Jazz Passion» that becomes extremely popular in various venues of Russia, Europe and America. Notedly this project involved renowned American guest soloists: Essiet Okon Essiet (bass), Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax) and Mark Gross (alto sax).

In January 2009 in New York Oleg recorded his solo album called «Passion», which includes his 10 original compositions, written with Natalia Smirnova. Amazing jazz musicians also took part in the recording: Mark Gross (alto sax), Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), and Essiet Okon Essiet (bass). The album was introduced in October 2009 at the Moscow House of Music as well as in many cities all over Russia with the participation very special guest stars Eric Marienthal (sax) and recording partner bassist Essiet Okon Essiet. Finally, in January 2010 the album was presented in the US at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Club during a week-long concert tour in NYC.

In summer 2010 Natalia and Oleg created a most original project featuring the duo of the piano and drums, calling it «Dialogues». This project is still very much in demand at jazz festivals and the musicians have toured Israel, the Ukraine, Poland, and Finland.



In August 2011 Oleg Butman and Natalia Smirnova recorded their second joint album «Runway» (Runway). The album included several original compositions and two vocal compositions highlighting Natalia Smirnova Butman playing the piano and singing. The album’s first presentation was held on March 8, 2012 in the Moscow House of Music followed by a two-week tour-presentation in multiple cities in Russia. The tour also featured well-known trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery (who recorded the first album) and bassist Danton Boller. The album’s second presentation was held on November 26, 2012 again in the prestigious House of Music with a subsequent three-week tour of the country. This time the album was presented by its renowned recording participants: steel-pen Leon Foster Thomas and bassist Essiet Okon Essiet joined also by Igor Butman on saxophone, Vadim Eilenkrig on the trumpet and Kirill Tolmatsky (DECL). A DVD of this concert was released in 2013 which you can buy exclusively at Oleg Butman’s concerts.

In the summer of 2013 Oleg and Natalia recorded their third album, called «Newborn Standards», dedicated to the birth of their daughter Alice. The album included jazz interpretations of well-known Russian melodies as well as selected hits by Stevie Wonder and the Beatles. It was recorded as a piano trio with Oleg’s old friend, bassist Boris Kozlov who has lived in New York since the 1990s. This album was ordered by a record producer for the Japanese market; apparently Russian piano trios are highly valued by the Japanese listener. The LP has been re-released 4 times and the sales have been extremely successful.

The newest album, «Moment of Happiness», was released in the spring of 2017. This album, just like the very first one, features original music. There are not only instrumental compositions, but also three songs in the Russian language for which Natalia wrote both the music and the lyrics. The album has a new sound with the guitar and the back vocals, and there are some beautiful vocalizations. The album’s US presentation will took place in New York, Boston and Los Angeles in January 2018 and in Russia afterwards.