This double-CD live set of the Russian Ganelin Trio and the Rova Saxophone Quartet is a historic recording as well as a delightfully maddening one. Recorded in June of 1986, it marked the first appearance of the Ganelin Trio (Vyacheslav Ganelin on piano and synth, Vladimir Tarasov on drums, Vladimir Chekasin on reeds and voice) in the United States. Hosted by the groundbreaking original version of the vanguard Rova Saxophone Quartet (Larry Ochs on tenor, Bruce Ackley on soprano, Jon Raskin on baritone, Andrew Voight on alto), the trio set out to tear down not only the walls of separation between jazz, improvised music and classical forms, but the Iron Curtain, as well. And do they ever succeed. Disc one opens with a 45-plus-minute piece by the Ganelin Trio. Entitled "Ritardando," it takes the classically notated form and creates a textural basis from which to improvise. At first it's merely Tarasov's soft drumming touched upon by single notes and spare chords by Ganelin. After two or three minutes, blips, blaps, and spurts mark Chekasin's entrance and the ensemble moves closer together. With Tarasov literally triple timing everything in this section, the other two play traces of jazz ballads and cinema themes while dancing around one another. About a third of the way through, the entire piece comes apart and all three men are blazing a trail through literally hundreds of years of music and playing together as improvisers, not merely as soloists on-stage with one another. By the time this gargantuan piece winds to a close, with Chekasin playing two horns à la Rahsaan Roland Kirk; we've been to the East, heard African folk songs on the way, and returned. The second piece, "Mack the Knife," is joyfully swung and humorously deconstructed. It echoes everything from Fats Waller to Kurt Weill and remains firmly a Ganelin Trio treasure in performance.
The end of disc one and end of disc two are collaborative improvisations between the Rovas and the Ganelins. They each begin well but lose direction quickly, no one knowing which way to go. Even so, they are better than 75-percent of what passed for group improvisation at the time. Not at all difficult to listen to, they are merely small letdowns from the astonishing tracks that precede them. "New Wine" and "Umtza-Umtza" comprise 47 minutes of disc two. These two tracks are raging improvisations with all the stops pulled. The Ganelins are journeying toward the edges, steaming to push their instruments, hearing and playing skills into a mass of sound that can neither be classified nor ignored. It's breathless by the end; no doubt no one there was left standing.
Synthesizers, saxophones, drums, and pianos crashing in on one another only to resurrect with a fresh idea, a new way to meld and melt. Leo released a lot of recordings of the Ganelins during their all-too-brief tenure. Despite the double group improvs, this set is among their best.
|Ritardando / Vladimir Chekasin / Vladimir Tarasov / Ganelin Trio||Ganelin Trio feat: Rova Saxophone Quartet||45:48|
|Mack the Knife / Marc Blitzstein / Bertolt Brecht / Kurt Weill||Ganelin Trio feat: Rova Saxophone Quartet||5:34|
|The Set-Up / Vladimir Chekasin / Vladimir Tarasov / Ganelin Trio||Ganelin Trio||7:12|