Victor Feldman - Part 2: From Cannonball to Russia

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"Soon after arriving in Moscow, we found out that homegrown jazz, supposedly taboo in the USSR, not only wasn't underground or outlawed as had long been believed, but was actually flourishing on a modest scale. It even had young. growing outlets at a Moscow jazz Club, where students earnestly discuss the latest news about John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman, and at a couple of Youth Cafes, where music by the new Soviet jazz wave is often heard live.

"Writing in Down Beat about a visit to the Cafe Aelita. I observed: "It is the closest Moscow comes to a night club ... serves only wine, closes at 11 p.m., and is decorated in a style that might be called Shoddy Modern, though radical by Moscow standards ... the shocker was the trumpet player, Andre Towmosian. who is 19 but looks 14, and plays with the maturity of a long-schooled musician, though in jazz he is self- taught."

"I learned that Towmosian was acclaimed in the fourth annual jazz festival at Tartu, Estonia. (It was amazing enough to learn that there had been any Soviet jazz festival, let alone four.) He was also featured with his quartet at the Leningrad University Jazz Festival; and one of the souvenirs I brought home was a tape, given me in Leningrad, of Towmosian playing Ritual, the original heard in this album.

"Also on tape were some of the compositions of Gennadi (Charlie) Golstain, the alto saxophonist and arranger whose apartment I visited in Leningrad. Though nicknamed for Charlie Parker, clearly he has at least two other idols, for side by side on the wall of his living room I noticed adjacent photographs of two men: Nikolai Lenin and Julian (Cannonball) Adderley.

"Golstain's tapes featured him with a combo similar to the Feldman group an these sides, but he works regularly with a large modern orchestra headed by Yusef Weinstain and writes most of the band's book. He is a soloist of considerable passion, as yet incompletely disciplined and subject to multiple influences, but his dedication is beyond cavil and his writing shows an intelligent absorption of the right influences.

"Several of the fellows in Benny's band jammed a couple of times with Gennadi at our hotel, the Astoria in Leningrad," Victor recalls, "and some of us, including Phil Woods, played with him at the University. He was eager for knowledge and information, like so many of the musicians we met."

"Goldstain is the composer of three of the lines in this set—"Blue Church Blues," "Madrigal," and "Gennadi"—as well as the arranger. or virtual re-composer, of the folk song "Polyushko Polye." (For those curious about the first title, it should be pointed out that the church Gennadi had in mind was not Russian Orthodox, but probably Southern Baptist.)

"Also represented here is a young arranging student named Givi Gachechiladze, the composer of "Vic." He lives in Kiev," says Victor, but he's studying at Tbilisi; and when we arrived at the airport there, he and a group of his friends were at the airport to meet us—with flowers. The next day he gave me this tune, dedicated to me and named for me.'

"The rapport that grew between the Soviet musicians and the Goodman sidemen showed in microcosm the kind of amity that could exist on all social levels if meetings were possible between men and women of the two countries who have common interests. All of us who tasted the hospitality of these devoted jazz musicians and students were touched by their sincerity, their lack of political animosity (many seemed totally apolitical), and their obvious desire to discuss things shared rather than differences.

"The young musicians like Towmosian, Golstain, Constantin Nosvo and Gachechiladze, none beyond their 20s and many in their teens. have not yet earned substantial recognition in their own country. It is ironic that this is the first album featuring Soviet jazz compositions that has ever been recorded, not merely in the U.S.A., but anywhere in the world. For decades American jazz was a prophet un-honored at home; Europeans were the first to give it profound critical attention. Now, in a strange reversal, Americans are the first to draw attention to a set of swinging, unpretentious Soviet jazz pieces that are still waiting to be recorded on home ground.

"The group selected for these two sessions is in itself further reflection of the "United Nations" character of jazz. Here are the works of writers in the Soviet Union, performed in America by a group under the leadership of Victor Stanley Feldman, who came to this country in 1955, at the age of 21, from his native London (the native city also of this writer, who helped organize the sessions); and on the tracks that feature Feldman's vibes the piano is taken over by Joe Zawinul, a superb modern pianist who was born in Vienna and did not arrive here until 1959, Zawinul works regularly with the sextet of Cannonball, whose brother Nat is heard on three tracks ("Ritual," "Madrigal," "Blue Church Blues.")


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