The first musical meeting ever of pianist Vyacheslav (Slava) Ganelin and saxophonist Albert Beger was conceived by the new Israeli label, Auris Media, as part of the label's celebration of its launching. Ganelin, who resides in Israel but rarely performs here, has gained his reputation as the leader of the remarkable Ganelin Trio (with saxophonist Vladimir Chekasin and drummer Vladimir Tarasov), while still living in the former Soviet Union. The Ganelin Trio recorded a series of powerful live statements for Leo label two decades ago. Beger, who was brought up on the legacy of the American free jazz, is still an underrated saxophonist, but his recent collaboration with bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake (Evolving Silence, Vol. 1, Earsay), should bring him his due recognition as an original and promising player.
Ganelin opened the evening with a brilliant solo recital on the piano and synthesizer. By now his music is much more pacified than the turbulent and dense improvisations of him while playing with the trio, but still carries the same theatrical and dramatic characteristics, and immediately identifiable. His musical language is always reflective and suggests references to Elingtonian style of composing, atonal modernism, a bit of Baroque and even folkish child songs. Ganelin keeps his left hand on the piano and reflects and comments on his abundant stream of ideas with his right hand that plays the synthesizer. Quite often he toys with a metronome and taps the piano strings, adding a nuances of irony to the mostly dark soundscapes.
Beger followed with a short set that featured his new trio with electric vertical bassist Gabriel Meir, who has accompanied Beger since his first recording ten years ago, and new drummer Israel Zohar. The trio sounded as if they have been playing together for years, tight, muscular and leaves solid base for Beger to develop his themes. Beger draws clear circular lines and than pushes and intensifies them, and with the exact dexterity of Meir and Zohar's heavy polyrhythms, the music felt assured, swinging and flowing. The set concluded with an inspired performance of one of the most beautiful songs that Beger penned, the meditative "Rain is Coming," first recorded by his quartet (Art of the Moment, NMC, 2000), and last year as an African suite with Parker and Drake.
It was clear that neither Ganelin or Beger knew much about the other's work, but that was the essence of this meeting. The duo set was led by Ganelin, who quickly encompassed Beger with a dense, multi-layered, stream of heavy clusters of chords. Beger sounded at first hesitant, even lost, but, I guess that Ganelin, as a shrewd and more experienced improviser, wanted to catch Beger off-balance. Once Beger realized that this is the name of the game, the two engaged in an intense, playful and rapid conversation, still led by Ganelin, that offered a glimpse to the great potential of this duo. Beger proved his competence as a free improv player, and Ganelin may finally have found a real musical partner in Israel, worthy of his partners from his trio's heyday.
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