Elsewhere Art . . . Soviet-era free jazz

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Elsewhere Art . . . Soviet-era free jazz

This collage-cum-Letraset is positively ancient, it dates back to the Soviet-era when jazz was not just supressed in Russia and its satellites but free jazz was way underground and tapes of it were smuggled out, recordings of groups like the Ganelin Trio.

So this art was created in 1984 to illustrate an article in the magazine I launched --Passages; The Magazine of Jazz and Elsewhere -- where we covered everything from Ellington and Count Basie to From Scratch and Auckland's Heptocrats (anyone else remember them?) to the underground free jazz from Russia which had been released on the Leo label out of London.

The story about how Auckland multi-instrumentalist and wonderful man Jim Langabeer and I brought those albums (and more) into New Zeaand at that time is told in the middle of this long (but for me, important) essay, but the key bit is this:

"At some point in '84 while editing Passages I heard about some innovative free jazz from the Soviet Union on a label called Leo run by a Russian √©migr√© Leo Feigin who lived in London.

"These recordings, all of which had the thrilling cachet of being smuggled out of the Soviet Union, sounded fascinating so I wrote to Leo and bought some from him (most in sturdy, monochromatic Soviet-style covers). Then Jim Langabeer and I decided to import a swag and see if we could sell them through Passages.album_large_134640_5ae3178c3c20e

"The deal was simple, Jim had his own small music import company, I had the pages of Passages in which to promote and advertise them. And so we did it.

"Passages devoted many pages of analysis and astute interpretation to these pre-glasnost albums -- Why the Soviet Union? Why now? And so on -- and waited for our readers to flood Jim with orders.

"Needless to say, it didn't happen although both Jim and I have copies of these extraordinary free jazz albums and the knowledge that we knew about them long before they gained more widespread attention in the late 80s."

I was and am proud of the fact that together we brought this exciting, different jazz (cut loose from the Black American tradition) and bloody challenging music to attention on the far side of the world . . . not that anyone here ever listened to it, let alone bought it from Jim!

Their loss, not ours.

Jim and I had the albums, Leo got his money and the Ganelin Trio?

They appeared later on New Zealand mainstream TV in a jazz programe which, if I recall, was hosted by either Colin Hemmingsen or the late Phil Broadhurst (both of whom Passages interviewed along with many other local musicians).

So maybe we'd opened that low door in that Wall between East and West?

Not at all.

But this much we knew. 

People in the old Soviet Union paid a high price for their free jazz.


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