Zinovy Pritsker

Musician and founder of a jazz big band recounts his journey from Leningrad to Southern Brooklyn

Zinovy Pritsker
Interview Date:
April 21, 2016


This interview was conducted and recorded in Russian. Read Mark Markov's transcript and translation below.

Coney Island resident Zinovy Pritsker's love of jazz began as a boy in his native Russia, where his father's band played American jazz. At the time, music from Voice of America's Jazz Hour was copied onto discarded X-ray sheets for lack of vinyl. These bootleg recordings were called "bone records," recalls Pritsker, who learned to play the clarinet and saxophone. For many years he was the director of a band at a hotel restaurant in Leningrad, where they played jazz as the first act . 

Pritsker and his family emigrated in 1978 because he says there was no future for his son in the USSR with their Jewish last name. Prior to leaving he trained as a piano tuner, having been told that it would be impossible to find steady work as a musician in America. In New York City, he quickly found a job as a tuner and regulator at a factory and eventually started his own business, which is called Piano Craft Company. 

His jazz big band, founded 20 years ago, consists of around 18 Russian musicians and singers plus a few Americans. They play popular jazz from the 1950s to today, including the music of Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Count Basie.