Aleksey (Lesha/Lyosha) Gavril was born on March 8, 1974 in Kiev, Ukraine. During his childhood years, as he spent his summers in his paternal grandparents’ village, was exposed to the beauty of authentic Ukrainian polyphonic singing at family gatherings. He later recalled that he had learned how to recognize and appreciate simple harmonies of folk songs in his grandmother’s Mazanka house, and considered them his initial music literacy. At the age of 5, per recommendation of music teachers, who believed that the boy had perfect pitch, Lyosha engaged in formal music education. When it came to the choice of the instrument, all teachers agreed that he would make a perfect violinist, due to his phenomenal ability to recognize and perfectly match notes. This talent, although a gift from nature, was also a curse. As young Mozart (whose life and musical gifts Lyosha studied all his life), Lyosha was able to replicate any complicated melody, which resulted in him not putting much effort in learning how to read sheet music. Per his own anecdote, once a prima violin in a youth orchestra, he tricked the conductor into demonstarting his part, as he was unable to read the music on the stand in front of him. At the completion of 7 years of the Music School, his instructors never learned that they were graduating a musically illiterate musician.
In his tween years, he discovered the Beatles and developed interest in guitar and singing. For some time, he experimented with guitar on his own, and later took guitar lessons for three years. Lyosha was always the main musical entertainment at his family gatherings. To support and develop this calling, his mother was able find venue and musical instruments, and Lyosha’s first tween band was formed.
READ MEMORIES OF LYOSHA'S MUSICAL CHILDHOOD, WRITTEN BY HIS CLOSE FRIEND MIKHAIL MIROCHNIK (in russian), HERE.
In 1992 the family immigrated to the US and moved to Detroit, Michigan. In 1993 Lyosha found new musical friendships and started playing rock'n'roll with various musicians in downtown Detroit. His friends recall that around 1994, Lyosha was regularly playing music with friends and having what he called “jam sessions.” Being a gifted musician, he often found himself in the company of talented people, some of whom started to play music for the first time, because they were inspired by his skill level and passion for music. As the same group of friends kept getting together and playing music on a regular basis, they eventually decided to form a band. The guys settled on the name THUS, which was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s seminal work, “Thus Spake Zarathustra.” There were a few lineup changes over the years, and a few guys switched instruments. Lyosha played guitar, and shared vocal and songwriting duties with the other band members. THUS played their first gig on 8/31/1997 at a venue called 7th House in Pontiac, Michigan, which, sadly, no longer exists. In its heyday, the 7th House stage hosted various national acts, including Nelly Furtado, Green Day, Matchbox 20, Dr. John, The Wallflowers, 10, 000 Maniacs, and others. The first show was a huge success as a large group of friends, relatives, and spectators gathered to support the guys. In the years that followed, THUS played at many venues around metro Detroit, including the well-known local music hotspots, such as Paycheck’s Lounge, and Lili’s 21, Old Miami, and Gold Dollar. At times, they would play several gigs with the same band if they felt a mutual appreciation for each other’s music. Discipline is one of the bands that comes to mind. THUS amassed a loyal following in Metro Detroit, as their concerts and band practices became important events for Lyosha’s group of friends, and often attracted new visitors who were not previously familiar with the group. The visitors usually left the practice or the show impressed and enthralled, and some of them decided to start playing music or become more serious about it, if they had already begun playing an instrument. The guys usually practiced in someone’s home, but at one point they were renting a practice space in Redford, at a warehouse that housed various artists’ and musicians’ studios. THUS remained active until about 2001, at which time the guys went their separate ways. Lyosha eventually formed another project with some of the former members of THUS and other musicians, and continued to play with them until he moved to Baltimore in 2004.
“Lesha was and still is a great inspiration to all of us,” recalls Boris Rabinovich, a member of THUS. “THUS” project was a true musical journey and a creative laboratory that gave us a whole new perspective and encouraged us to explore music with no boundaries. I think that all of the projects that followed “THUS” were influenced by him in some way.” Follow this LINK to listen to THUS.
Zhanna Rosenburg shares: “One day, many years after THUS stopped playing together, as I was checking out a book from a library in Royal Oak, MI, the librarian recognized me from a THUS show that took place many years earlier at Griff’s Grill in Pontiac. He came to the gig in order to support a friend who played with another band, but THUS clearly left an imprint, as he remembered the show and the band many years later.”
In 2004 Lesha Gavril left Detroit for Baltimore. This was the beginning of the second American phase of his musical evolution. He quickly became a part of the vibrant Russian speaking musical community of Greater Washington. About a year after his relocation to Baltimore, he met Katya Denisova, whom he married in 2012. Lesha, Katya, and Vsevolod Tishenko formed a guitars and vocals trio and performed at KSP festivals between 2006 and 2009.
“A band leader needs to create conditions that make sense to the band members,” - argued Aleksei in a conversation with Eugene Borovikov, the front man of 95 Blues Berry Way, at Camp Merryelande on Memorial Day of 2010, when the band marked its 10th anniversary by the release of the Talk with an Old Friend album. The band was on the verge of being dissolved due to the multiple disagreements among the band members on various issues from the repertoire to the music style preferences. Eugene was about to start a solo singer-songwriter route while Aleksey and Eugene Bisk were thinking about forming a new band. It was hard to argue with the statement Aleksey made. He was not much of a speaker, but most of his remarks were to the point, as was his guitar playing and his back vocals singing.
He joined 95BBW around 2008 as a solo-guitar player and contributed a great deal to the live performances as well as to the recordings of the band. The band’s anniversary album has been commented on quite positively by many listeners including some professional musicians invariably complimenting Aleksey’s solo-guitar playing. Numerous musical ideas would not be possible without his creative approach to the guitar arrangements. Listen to An Extra Night in Paris for the moody solos in A-minor, or to Your Dream for some solo-guitar rage, or to Past Midnight Again for some beautiful solo-guitar dialogue, or to the title track for the variety of quite prominent guitar solos.
Aleksey contributed many interesting ideas and solos to the mostly acoustic album titled "Formula" by Eugene Borovikov in such tracks as Spleen. Many songs performed live also benefited from his unique and expressive guitar playing: Give me Wings, Under-moon Carnaval, Blues about Turbulent Youth, as well as Jobless Life, to which Aleksey originated the idea. He also sang back-vocals in Watercolor and My Good-Old Automobile along with Eugene Bisk, with whom they later formed “Alyssa and the Melaphones” band.
During his term in 95BBW, Aleksey experimented with many guitars, from his usual solid-body instruments, through hollow and semi-hollow body guitars, to acoustics. Numerous sound effects were played with using solid-state and tube over-drives as well as wah-wah and uni-vibe pedals. One thing remained quite constant, though: his love for the melody that could always be identified through his remarkable solos.
In 2008 Lesha met members of “RUPasaran” rock band of Woodbridge, VA. Here are reflections of one of the band members:
“На одной из тусовок у Жени Боровикова, когда он собирал людей для джемов весной и осенью, РуПасаран, состоящий из двух людей, выступил под драм- машинку и исполнил пару своих песен. На этой встрече я и познакомился с Лешей. Мы поговорили о музыке, и я сразу предложил ему поиграть с нами, так как нам нужен был соло-гитарист. Леша сразу согласился, но преградой нашему совместному творчеству сразу же стало расстояние на котором мы друг от друга находились. Леша жил в Балтиморе, ну а РуПасаран обетал в Вудбридже. Тем не менее, мы начали встречаться и играть в основном, уже написанные песни группы RuPasaran. Лeша на каждой такой встрече был невероятно гармоничен в умение включиться в любую мелодию, любую песню, подбирая мгновенно партию на своей гитаре. РуПасаран выступал пару раз на концертах, но главным концертом стало выступление в клубе "Black Cat" на разогреве у “Мумий Тролля" в их туре по Америке в 2009 году. В Ноябре 2009го года РуПасаран после этого концерта больше в таком составе не собирался и можно считать, что группа перестала существовать в конце 2009 года."
“Лeша для меня был настоящим талантом. Человеком с которым всегда было легко поговорить, поспорить, обсудить любую тему. С Лешей можно было смело без какой либо оглядки говорить на любые темы и знать, что он тебя выслушает и выскажет своё мнение. Лeша помогал своим присутствием: то что можно было написать или позвонить, высказаться и обязательно получить совет, невероятно успокаивало и помогало существовать в этой жизни.” Юра Маслюков
Baltimore-based band “Alyssa and the Melaphones” was the last chapter in Aleksey’s musical biography. The group was formed in November 2013, thanks to Kirill Sherman’s (drums) persistence and enthusiasm. They didn’t have a name or clear sense of purpose or direction at first. Bassist Eugene Bisk recalls: “We were just hanging out and playing loud rock. Lacking a willing singer, we would launch into long instrumental jams in the vein of Phish or extended renditions of Smoke on the Water and Space Trucking. That musical situation would have probably gone on for a while before eventually fizzling out, but lucky for us we found Olya before that happened.”
What would later become “Alyssa and the Melaphones” was at first known as the “Yet Unnamed Band”. “We played everything that sounded good to us, from Jimi Hendrix all the way to No Doubt, Ceelo Green and Portugal the Man”, continues Bisk. Lesha being the rock and blues guitar player would naturally lean towards the heavier sounding material, but he could also make the softer stuff sound good. He could play anything…
Lesha always had more than a few guitars and guitar accessories in his arsenal, but he started to expand his collection in this band. At nearly every rehearsal there would always be either a new guitar or an effects pedal or sometimes a new amplifier. He did have a few favorites that he played most often: his Parker Nitefly, his vintage 80s Aria Pro IIs and 50th Anniversary Fender Strat.
Fender Strat is featured in the Emotionally Scarred music video and on the demo that the band recorded in 2015 at Hit & Run Records studio.
The band’s singer and song-writer Olga Gimburg reflects on Lesha’s role in the development of the group’s musical identity:
“Мы в группе разрабатывали и записывали оригинальные песни: Emotionally Scarred, Autumn Rhapsody, Release me, Circling Waters, Moving forward, and more. Лёша старался подобрать как максимально правильно сыграть свои партии чтобы быть неотъемлемой частью песни и был сдержанным и скромным в этом процессе. Oдновременно мы работали над уже известным материалом. Группа начала выступать в клубах и была приглашена на фестивали. Несмотря на всё своё богатое музыкальное прошлое, Леша продолжал развиваться, он слушал новых музыкантов открывал для себя и нас новшества в технологии игры на гитаре и разные методы производства своего возлюбленного инструмента -он всегда стремился к максимальным знаниям и мог часами экспериментировать с разными техниками и звуками. Он отличался всегда именно мастерством звука гитары на которой он играл. Его соло были полетами его души, но без всякого сомнения за этим полётом были года практики и эволюции. Есть много гитаристов, которые замечательно и технично играют, но увы, правильный тон и звук они не извлекают из инструмента..Лёша был один из немногих музыкантов кому удавалось совмещать в равенстве технику с душой.
В начале он долго боролся с нами, чтобы играть и петь исключительно классический рок и блюз, но в конце любовь к музыке в общем, и любовь к нам привела к тому что мы пробовали играть практически все и просто наслаждались процессом совместных полётов души. Мы все ждали и любили наши репетиции ни чуть не меньше чем выступления потому как иногда именно на репетициях свершались маленькие изумруды творческого процесса. Эти моменты когда казалось бы совершенно разные люди смогли соединиться во что-то единое и все вместе понимали, что только что свершили маленькое чудо, это было не повторить и не заменить ничем другим.. и Лёшу увы не повторить и не заменить никем другим ... Остаётся только верить в то что музыка способна продолжать существовать, и мы должны продолжать ею усердно заниматься, и кто знает может быть в этих полетах нам удастся ощущать что его душа тоже с нами..
Он безусловно отдавал всего себя через музыку и дарил нам это. Я говорю дарил, потому что для того чтобы так играть, это точно как быть голым перед всеми..., делиться всем что есть в тебе ради музыки. Это требует в какой то мере помимо всего остального, храбрости."
Aleksey's heart stopped at 5 am on March 18 2019, 8 hrs after his LAST REHEARSAL with the band.