Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Jazz trio combining Russian soul with the influence of Sunny Murray, Albert Ayler, Art Ensemble of Chicago etc, formed in Vilnius, (then) Soviet Lithuania c 1971 by Vyacheslav Ganelin (b 17 December 1944, Kraskovo), piano, composer; also percussion, electric guitar etc; Vladimir Chekasin (b 24 February 1947, Sverdlovsk) on reeds, drummer Vladimir Tarasov (b 29 June 1947, Archangelsk), all multi-instrumentalists. Soviet jazz was (understandably) derivative until an avant-garde movement began '70s; the artists invent the structures and are not required to belong to a category, which is partly why jazz (or better, improvised music) has at last become an international language, as opposed to being completely dominated by Americans. Western audiences and critics often missed the point as far as the Ganelin Trio are concerned, but their music cannot be ignored (there was a short-lived East Wind label in the USA that performed a valuable service by issuing half a dozen albums by Soviet artists including Poi Segue below). Russian, then Soviet artists (in any genre) have always related their art to other areas of contemporary art: hence Ganelin is a composer, Tarasov is a student of painting, sculpture and architecture; Tarasov plays in symphony orchestras; all are familiar with ethnic ('third world') musical forms, etc. They composed a large suite each year: 'We borrow some elements not only from jazz but from chamber music, folk music and other genres,' says Chekasin. Ganelin: 'The chief quality of our work is the absence of purely rational, ''dry'' elements. Our music is always organic and natural; audiences sense the absence of pretence.'

First LP Con Anima '77 on Melodiya, followed by Concerto Grosso '80 and Poi Segue '81, all three recorded in Vilnius, as was Semplice '83, with a spacious resemblance to AACM playing (all four were later on Sonore CDs). Non Troppo (said to be an uninspired performance) was on Enja, a different two- disc version on hat Art; there were fragments on samplers (Poco A Poco on Muza; Katalog on Amiga) and Vyacheslav Ganelin Trio on Poljazz; all other records have been on the indefatigable Leo label of London, the most important source of contemporary music from what used to be the Soviet Union: Catalogue '79 (aka Live In East Germany; a resumé of ten years together), Con Fuoco, Ancora Da Capo Parts 1 And 2 (part 1 was poorly recorded at the source: tapes came to Leo by diverse methods), New Wine, Vide, Strictly For Our Friends, Baltic Triangle. Opus A Duo '82 from Vilnius was issued on Melodiya without Chekasin, who was involved in other projects; it was later also on Sonore. Leo released Chekasin's solo Exercises, quartet Nostalgia (perhaps spoiled by a rock/disco straitjacket), big band New Vitality. Of the trio's Con Affetto (recorded '83 in Moscow, released '86 on Leo), Kevin Whitehead wrote in Cadence: 'Free exchanges are draped over and shaped by skeletal thematic material, to form a loose suite that's laced with zany humour ... Chekasin shows that comic but polished blowing of two saxes at once is no joke ... a ''Mack The Knife'' painstakingly reconstructed from the unrecognizable fragments they began with.' Inverso '84 on Leo had Ganelin programming drum machines, with Pyatras Vyshniauskas on alto and soprano sax and Grigory Talas on electric bass, which all three then cheerfully ignore.

Ganelin emigrated to Israel '87, where Jerusalem February Cantabile was made '89 with Victor Fonarev and Mika Markovich. In 2007 the trio included Vyshniauskas on reeds and Klaus Kugel on drums. Recommended books include Frederick Starr's Red & Hot: The Fate Of Jazz In The Soviet Union '83, which brings the story up to the '70s; Russian Jazz: New Identity '85, edited by émigré label boss Leo Feigin, with the latest news including a contribution from Starr, translated Russian reviews and a chapter on being dedicated enough to start your own record label with totally unfamiliar music. William Minor's Unzipped Souls '95 is a travelogue of six republics as well as a book about music, full of interviews and anecdotes.