The Ganelin Trio created some of the best improvised music ever played in the old Soviet Union, which you may think is like saying they're the best country music singers in the Metropolitan Opera company until you hear this disc. Recorded live in Moscow in 1983, this performance consists of Ganelin's fifty-seven minute "Semplice," plus three relatively brief encores.
As may be expected, "Semplice" is a huge, sprawling tapestry, full of rich and shifting textures. It begins like a piece of South Asian classical music, built up from absolute silence at first with the tenderest whispers of percussion, which gradually grow to crescendos, diminish again, and build back up. All three trio members, as usual, are credited with playing percussion, and certainly they're able to create a huge but not indiscriminate sound together. Not until twelve minutes into the piece do any non-percussion instruments make any appearance, and even then it seems to be the choked sounds of Ganelin's bassett horn (although it may be one of the other "horns"), which duet with the percussion. But although the horn holds stage alone for several stretches, in the end the percussion wins out, until piano enters around the seventeen minute mark.
Then the artistry of the trio is fully revealed as the rest of the piece unfolds. Ganelin's piano playing is colossal, and the dramatic power of his impassioned duetting with the smallest strains of sound (from the Casio?) is astounding. When Chekasin's saxophones finally appear, they add a swashbuckling and unpredictable piquancy to this piece which is full of modern classical, modern jazz, and ancient references, but is unto itself a masterpiece.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.