JJ 01/74: Raising the curtain

Fifty years ago John Jack delivered a 'report on jazz in Russia', the latter then often confused with the USSR, which included Ukraine. First published in Jazz Journal January 1974

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Victor Dubiler with what may be imagined an archetypal Soviet backdrop

The Donbass 67 jazz club was formed by the musicians and jazz fans of the Ukrainian coalmining city of Donetsk on 24th May 1967, under the auspices of the city council (committee of the Comsomol). Lectures on the history of jazz and on individual jazz musicians are held regularly every week, on Wednesdays. Once a month there is a news feature to keep the audience informed of latest happenings, and the progress of new names amongst the musicians.

The club stages concerts and jam sessions, in some of which nationally well-known musicians such as Boris Ryczkov, Anatoly Kroll and Vsevolod Korolov and visiting musicians from Poland, Czechoslo­vakia, Romania and Bulgaria have taken part. Musicians from Donetsk have taken part in jazz festivals in different parts of the USSR, winning many prizes and awards. Especially popular is the Donetsk jazz-club quintet, which consists of Vladimir Chaliy (pno); Valery Kolesnikov (cor/fgl-h); Boris Savczuk (vln); Vladimir Denezhny (bs); and Koustautin Rylsky (dm).

Chaliy’s compositions Ballad and The Chochloma’s Ornament have received special mention at several festivals, includ­ing Vorouez and Gorky. The quintet plays over a wide range of styles, from Dixieland to modern. The most outstand­ing member is Valery Kolesnikov, with great technical command of his horn, very original ideas and a well-developed rhythmic sense. In the Young Jazz Per­formers competition held in Prague in the autumn of 1971, he was awarded the top place. The pianist Chaliy also sometimes performs as a scat vocalist, and partici­pated in the 1971 Lublin International Jazz Vocalists Festival. Bassist Vladimir Denezhny has also been a frequent ‘Musician Laureate’ at various East European jazz Festivals; last year he graduated from the Donetsk city music school.

The summit of Donbass-67’s activities have been the festivals held every two years. The first took place in 1969 and was called ‘Donetsk-100’ as it marked the centenary of the city; jazz groups came from 8 major Russian cities. ‘The Donetsk-102’ (1971) presented fifteen bands from ten cities, on a competitive basis. The winning groups, were a free-jazz duo from Vilnus, V. Ganelin (pno), and V. Tarasov (dm), the Leningrad Dixielanders of A. Kanunnikov, and the local quartet of Vladimir Chaliy.

The festivals have all been great successes, with the city Drama Theatre packed to its 1000-seat capacity every performance. The club is holding its third festival for 1973, and developing its contacts with other clubs and jazz organi­sations throughout the USSR and abroad. Its chairman Victor Dubiler, pianist and mining engineer, devotes virtually all his time to the jazz cause and has travelled extensively to many of the festivals in Russia and also to most of the principal ones in East Europe, including the one at Warsaw in 1971. He supplied all the information for these notes.

Victor and his colleagues are delighted to hear from anyone abroad with news of jazz, and as it is impossible for them to buy or send money abroad to buy Western records, gifts are extremely welcome; they will be very pleased to send Russian recordings of all types including some good jazz in exchange.

From the time I have spent with Victor and his friends in Warsaw and from his letters I can assure you that there are few more dedicated jazz lovers to be found anywhere, and their knowledge is amazing considering the obstacles they have to overcome to acquire it. His address is: Victor Dubiler, 370055 Donetsk, P.O. Box 522, USSR. To be sure they reach him any parcels must be sent by registered mail.