This nicely structured collection represents the second of two recently issued 4-CD sets of what has been coined: “Soviet New Jazz.” And while some folks might assume that these are strictly novelty items, that notion does not apply here. Deeply entrenched in classical music, many Russians have exhibited a keen interest in jazz and pop throughout the years, despite the repressive nature of the former Soviet Union. Naturally, many of the classically trained musicians did not enjoy full access to vast catalogues of LPs, sheet music, CDs, books and so on. But in some instances, these scenarios, can work unusually well. Where artists assimilate what they know into personalized interpretations or more importantly, reinventions of standard conventions. Culled from various sources, the material on these four CDs were recorded between 1984 and 1994
Subsequent to listening to these discs, it became apparent that the musicians frequently embedded theatrics into their respective repertoires. Therefore, a sense of autonomy prevails throughout these predominately audacious free-jazz, avant-garde, and sometimes farcical enactments. The multitasking aggregation known as “Jazz Group Arkhangelsk,” rekindles notions of the “Art Ensemble of Chicago,” as the instrumentalists’ flirt with world music, multiethnic slants, and free improv. This group’s conceptions make for a fantastic series of escapades, as the ensemble melds, renegade-like brass parts with African rhythmic endeavors. The larger aggregation, “Jazz Group Arkhangelsk and Friends,” pursues hallowed wordless vocal atmospherics, unbridled rhythmic flurries, and penetrating arrangements. While the sextet known as “Orkestrion,” pulls out all of the stops via live EFX, chamberesque interludes, bird sounds, bells, percussion and much more. “Orkestrion” is most effective at superseding any inklings of normalcy, as the band’s microtonal soundscapes and hazy dreamlike passages drum up visions of an outlandishly strange Amazonian ritual. The band also incorporates melodramatic episodes into a series of works that defy categorization yet seems so au natural. Perhaps the musicians are discombobulating the history of music while reassembling all of the parts into some sort of delusional framework. Conversely, keyboardist, Mikhail Chekalin, and his quartet propagate an air of mystery amid infusions of progressive rock and semi-classical movements. Essentially, the group’s overall sound could be analogous to - a symphony of abstractions.
Disc 4 features alto saxophonist, Petras Vysniauskas’ echo-laden creations, complete with Vyacheslav Ganelin’s (of Ganelin Trio notoriety) spacey synth-based effects in support of the leader’s plaintive cries. While listening to this set in particular, I could not help but envision some sort of offbeat, Cinéma Vérité type documentary. However, the musicians’ cathartic dogmas present us with something that rings of freedom, and hope. The listener might experience similar emotional responses or vibes throughout these extraordinary performances! Strongly recommended. (limited edition of 750 copies)