JJ 08/82: Soviet expansion

In brighter days, 40 years ago, JJ's Russia correspondent Vadim Yurchenkov reported on the international opening up of Soviet jazz activity. First published in Jazz Journal August 1982

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The Ganelin Trio

Soviet jazz continues to be featured inter­nationally. A jazz trio of Alexei Kuznetsov, guitar, Tomaz Kurashvili, acoustic bass and percussionist Dato Djaparidze participated in Jazz Yatra 82 international jazz festival in Bombay, India this spring. The trio presented its own composition entitled Moscow-Tbilisi (for Kuznetsov is a Muscovite while Kurashvili and Djaparidze are Georgians based in Tbilisi). Kurashvili is the best jazz bassist in the country. He came to national prominence four years ago when he played in several outfits at Tbilisi jazz festival in 1978. His most successful work was with the late Vagif Mustafa-Zadeh’s trio with whom he later released two albums.

Melodiya jazz band led by Gheorgi Garanyan (the house band of Melodiya Records) was the first Soviet jazz act which played at the festival in Bombay in 1980. They released an album ‘Concert In Bombay’ last year.

So far this has been the major Soviet jazz breakthrough into the east following appearances by Soviet jazzmen including the above mentioned Melodiya band, solo pianist Leonid Tchizhik and the Viatcheslav Ganelin trio in Western Europe.

Tchizhik is an expert at improvisation, very much involved in solo concerts and jazz festivals throughout Russia and also has several albums through Melodiya including a collection of brilliant impro­visations on George Gershwin’s songs and a set of his own compositions.

Also very much involved in Soviet jazz at an international level is the Viatcheslav Ganelin trio which scored heavily in a series of concerts in Italy last year.

Ganelin, a graduate of Vilnius Conservatory and a pianist and composer (a member of the USSR Composers’ Union) entered the national jazz scene in 1965 (a conservatory student then) when he led his first trio at the Talin Jazz Festival that year.

Later in 1971 he formed a new trio with drummer Vladimir Tarasov and saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Vladimir Tchekasin. Today Ganelin and his comrades present a kind of jazz threatre blending musicianship, various avant-garde ideas and jazz eccentricity. The trio has played many Russian and east European festivals receiving massive critical and audience acclaim. The trio has two albums on Melodiya and one LP released through Polski Nagranja in Poland. Playing a jazz festival in West Berlin, Ganelin’s trio is a potential visitor to West Germany.