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Slava Ganelin: Two Different Trios

Eyal Hareuveni By

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The recording career of composer and keyboard player Vyacheslav (Slava) Ganelin has always been quite sporadic, especially since he emigrated from Russia to Israel in 1987. Ganelin was previously associated with the London-based Leo label, which documented his early work with the now legendary Russian Trio with reed player Vladimir Chekasin and drummer Vladimir Tarasov. According to rumor, Ganelin smuggled their first tapes from the former USSR to Leo's head, Leo Feigin. The new Israeli label Auris Media is trying to fill the gaps in Ganelin's scattered discography with two live recordings from two different trios, and an upcoming live recording of a duet with reed master Ned Rothenberg, presenting him as one of the most original composers on the free improvised music scene.

Ganelin Trio Priority
Live in Germany
Auris Media

Ganelin usually opts for the trio format, and in this still active European trio he plays with German drummer and percussionist Klaus Kugel and Lithuanian soprano saxophonist Petras Vysniauskas. Both of them are experienced improvisers who have played with such noted free-thinking musicians including Steve Lacy, Kent Carter, Steve Swell, Robert Dick and Elliot Sharp; extensively together in Vysniauskas' quartet and quintet; and in clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann Fellowship. Vysniauskas was a student of Vladimir Chekasin, one of the cornerstones of the first legendary trio.

Live in Germany is from a 1999 concert at the European Music Festival Munster. It's one of the trio's first dates and feature two long tracks totaling nearly 80 minutes. Ganelin is the undisputed leader—and clearly sets the tone—but Kugel and Vysniauskas are more than supporting musicians. They are both innovative and highly creative players, adding layers and textures to the broad canvas that Ganelin paints. Vysniauskas' tone is sometimes reminiscent of John Surman in his most ambient voyages, or Paul Dunmall in his most muscular playing; but he remains a highly original player. Kugel, like master European drummers including Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton, is more focused on color and timbre than on time keeping. Kugel and Vysniauskas manage to charge Ganelin with a sense of immediacy, softness, and beautiful imagination.

Ganelin is a master architect who can combine eclectic and poly-stylistic themes, abstract ideas, stories and mini-dramas into a unified statement, and than let it sound symphonic, orchestral, cinematic, chaotic and aggressive—even toying with a child-like song theme. All this in a matter of seconds, before spicing it up with tension-filled passages or provocative soothing moments before climaxing in maelstrom-like eruptions. There are so many arresting musical occurrences that reference modern contemporary music, East-European folk music and Film Noir soundtracks. Still, Ganelin's ironic and quite often humoristic use of the synthesizer and small objects and percussion disarms the music from any pomposity or Post-Modern pastiche clichés. The affinity between the players is especially amazing, considering the all-improvised nature of this music, and when all three lock in, the music becomes breathtaking. Beautifully recorded.

Ganelin Trio
Eight Reflections of the Past Century
Auris Media

This trio is comprised of former Ganelin associates—drummer Mika Markovitch and double-bassist Victor Fonarov—who recorded on earlier albums including Opuses (Leo, 1989). This live concert, also from 1999, was recorded in Tel Aviv. This is more conventionally jazz-centric music. Their musical spectrum is about developing and following Ganelin's motifs, rather than the free group improvisation of the Priority Trio. Even the use of the synthesizer is more restrained, used by Ganelin for improvisation mainly on "V, and not as a means to enrich the music with orchestral complexions. On the short concluding track Ganelin uses the synthesizer as a swinging brass instrument. The trio's music is usually dense and turbulent, except on the elegiac "VI," and features a high level of communication between the players. The sound is not as pristine as Live in Germany, but remains another important document of Ganelin's genius and originality.

Visit Ganelin Trio Priority, Klaus Kugel and Petras Vysniauskas on the web.

Live in Germany

Tracks: I; II.

Personnel: Slava Ganelin: piano, synthesizer, percussion; Petras Vysniauskas: soprano saxophone; Klaus Kugel: drums, percussion.

Eight Reflections of the Past Centuries

Tracks: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII.

Personnel: Slava Ganelin: piano synthesizer; Mika Markovitch: drums; Victor Fonarov: double bass.


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