"FOUR STARS.. (Portnov)... brings a sense of discovery even more startling than before to investigations of blues, jazz, funk and 1960s soundtrack music." - Downbeat
"One of the most innovative and technically advanced harmonica players in the world" - Blues.gr.
"Portnov’s technique is smooth, lyrical, and often jazzy, akin in effect to Johnny Hodges on alto sax, where the melody just floats easily above the accompaniment." -Elmore Magazine.
Having chosen the diatonic harmonica as his instrumental voice, Ilya transforms its rustic simplicity into a sophisticated, expressive sound capable of conveying the most challenging music. As a world citizen, Ilya is equally comfortable swinging a Brazilian choro, navigating a sinewy Balkan dance, or celebrating harmonica’s roots in the blues.
In 2014, he completed a Masters at the prestigious New England Conservatory (Boston, MA) and is the only person playing diatonic harmonica to have done so. Since graduating Ilya has honed skills in several other types of harmonicas. Ilya has recorded and performed with a number of groups at venues and festivals throughout the United States, Europe, Russia and Brazil.
Ilya’s critically acclaimed debut album “Strong Brew” has been nominated for the Blues Blast Music Award and has so far spent 7 weeks on various Roots Music Report Charts including Top 20 California Albums and Top 50 Blues Albums. The song “Sunny Afternoon Blues” from the album reached number one on the Jazzy Blues Songs chart.