2007/08/15

August 15 in Russian history

Today is the birthday of two jazz musicians. In 1925, Oscar Peterson was born, a magnificent Canadian pianist, whose uneven, abrupt, laconical manner was a matter of envy for thousands of jazz pianists all over the world. On August 15, 1934, Georgi Garanyan was born. Saxophonist, composer and conductor, he began his musical career as a pianist in a university orchestra. He began playing saxophone by pure accident, but soon became a saxophonist in the youth orchestra of CDRI (Central Home of the Art Workers) led by Yuri Saulski. The orchestra participated in the jazz competition during the World Youth Festival in Moscow in 1957 and some Polish musicians invited them to come to the Jazz Jamboree festival to Poland (the recording from these festivals were very popular among Soviet jazz lovers). The orchestra was not allowed to visit the Polish festival and was even heavily criticized in the press: "It's a pity to see the attempts of our youth to imitate the worst trends of the modern fashion. The youth orchestra of CDRI is an example of such loss of identity. With disgust we watch these longhaired stilyagas in exaggeratedly tight trousers and eccentric jackets."

In 1958, Garanyan joined the orchestra of Oleg Lundstrom, one of the best Soviet jazz big bands. In 1973 he became the leader of the band Melodiya and recorded his best albums, like Labyrinth, Concert in Bombay and Melodiya plays Duke Ellington. Labyrinth was the first jazz-rock LP in the history of the Soviet jazz.

By the way, while we're at it, I mentioned the stilyagas. Some time ago I found an article about the Swing kids in the Nazi Germany: German Swing Youth. They were very similar to the stilyagas (see In Praise of Vulgarity for more about stilyagas). I posted these links at the Sima Qian Studio forum and someone asked me whether Western jazz musicians ever came to the USSR. After some research I found out the following:

Q: Did American Jazz groups travel to Russia in the period. Most did tours of Europe, hence the cultural spread. But I wasn't sure if they went to Russia or not?
A: Some of them did, but only rarely and every such visit, when they gave one or two concerts, is still remembered by jazz fans as a great event of the epoch :). In 1926, when jazz was considered a music of the enslaved blacks, the possible allies of the proletariat in the world revolution, Sydney Bechet came to USSR with Louis Mitchell's Jazz Kings. A bit later, jazz became a music of the capitalist enemies and the contacts were frozen till the death of Stalin. In 1957, during the international festival of youth and students in Moscow, a French band of Michel Legran gave a concert. In 1962, Benny Goodman played in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. Khruschev visited one of the concerts and liked the music, but the tours did not become more frequent. In 1969, the Illinois university orchestra (D.D.Bridgewater was a singer) was invited to Moscow. In 1972 D.D. came once again, with the orchestra of Ted Jones and Mel Louis. B.B.King was here in 1979. Oscar Peterson also came to the USSR, gave one concert in Tallinn and another concert was planned in Moscow, but the organizers couldn't fulfill his requirements and he left. If I remember correctly, Chick Corea and Gary Burton played at a private concert organized by the US ambassador in Moscow.

2 comments:

Lyndon said...

This may be too recent to be relevant, but Dave Brubeck took his quartet on tour in the USSR (which I think included just Moscow and Leningrad) in 1987 - I think I still have the tour jacket that my Dad got for advancing things in Piter as the press/culture guy at the US Consulate there. Mr. Brubeck likes to improvise on the theme of "Volga River Boatmen" (a.k.a. "Ei Ukhnem").

In the post-Soviet period (so even less relevant, I know) I was involved in logistical work for concerts by Brubeck and Wynton Marsalis (with the whole LCJO) in Moscow (more info about these events is here), and these events were well-attended, though that may be due more to the scarcity of top-tier foreign jazz artists coming to Russia than anything else.

Dmitri Minaev said...

And why do they only visit the capitals?! Bring them to Samara next time :).

No, but seriously, are we that worse than, say, Chicago?

I haven't heard that song played by Brubeck, but I recall Glenn Miller's version of the "Song of Volga Boatmen", it was quite hot.