The mighty Leo Records is celebrating 30 years of improvised music documentation. Leo is an English label, but operated by a Russian émigré, Leo Feigin. As with many great, individualist outfits, he's an uncompromising sort of chief, comparable to ECM's Manfred Eicher or Emanem's Martin Davidson.
The Russian trio of trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky, pianist Andrey Kondakov and bassist Vladimir Volkov are prone to a certain amount of sinister tomfoolery. Their Christmas Concert is from a December 2006 gig recorded in their home city of St. Petersburg. Extended pieces allow ample space for hyperactive playfulness, a constantly tensed resourcefulness as piano is prepared in real time, bass attains violin pitch and trumpet needles deep into the carapace. They're afire with invention and invariably unpredictable. All three employ their cartoonish voices, skillfully integrating snorts, jabbering and whispering in tongues, never cringe-making, instead pulled off with aplomb, in a kind of pomp-mockery. The wood flutes come out for the closing track, along with simultaneous glugging vocal sounds. The results are just as profound, even as they deliberately limit their palette, ending up with a skeletal folkloric funk.
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