8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is one of the five most shattering jazz CDs I have ever listened to, and I have heard a few thousand... That the Ganelin Trio don't have their deserved place in the pantheon of jazz pains me, but I cannot do anything about it. That there is not a single review on this CD on Amazon is a shame which is easy to rectify.
Here is what some respected publuications have noted on this album:
"One of the very important jazz records of recent times" (Penguin Guide to Jazz)
"One of the most exciting events that Free Music has ever staged..." (Melody Maker)
"Maybe not since the first Ornette Coleman records appeared has Western European jazz experienced quite such a shock of the totally unexpected as the Ganelin Trio produced." (The Wire)
The words below by critic and music historian Steve Kulak capture the essence of this music better than I possibly could. He speaks about this album and their music in general but his words apply especially strongly about "Live In East Germany", which is the trio's finest forty-something minutes. I am thus quoting Mr. Kulak in one extensive excerpt below:
""Live in East Germany" (the tapes of which were smuggled out of the former Soviet Union by a German tourist).....features the Trio's performance at the historical 1980 concert in West Berlin. Those lucky enough to be there would no doubt have witnessed first hand what was meant by "an insanely accelerated history of jazz." The music can be approached as one extended composition, or as a series of scenes, although it may seem odd to speak of scenes in a work where hearing and sound prevail. Yet hearing, together with vision, is the second sense that brings us knowledge from afar. And those who were there to see and hear the Trio were... astonished.
"....Had these albums been released by three white boys from New York, the course of modern music could well have been catapulted into different time zones and ridden a different wave onto the beachhead that is contemporary music today. But this was 1979, and these were three Russians at the wrong end of the Seventies. We were still a whole decade away from the hole in the wall that would signify not only a new Berlin, but a new political order and with it the fading memories of a vanquished Soviet system. Too many aspects of Soviet culture suffered the same discrediting process that the failure of its political system implied. To the victor not only the spoils but all the glory.
"What we have in the Ganelin Trio is not a free jazz hybrid: it is highly structured, new music. Unarguably and absolutely. It is structured in a way that improvised music can not be. It is played with intensity and gravity, which is not necessarily what makes it different, though its humour and teetering-on-the-edge quality might. It may be humourous in the way that all excessive intensity is; it depends on whether intensity affects you that way. It can also be heard as music which appears to live in two different epochs: its own and as a rehearsal for the next one. One blink from then to now and back again."
"The Ganelin Trio offer layers of compositional audacity that eludes music with a greater claim. What impresses most is its structure, an edifice comparable to the inside outside architecture of a glass and metal building with all the beams, wires and ducting exposed but with no walls to obstruct your line of sight. It is a most impressive construct: the way it all fits in and works together, especially if you care enough to follow the pipes and cables from beginning to end. But there is more: the calibre of the musicianship, its attack and fluency, its exemplary execution and uncompromising commitment, right through to the sheer originality of the overall conception: all this represents the Ganelin Trio. The music is astounding. It is not wallpaper but furniture. You cannot ignore the music. It forces you to listen to it, takes you inside. You might end up feeling like an exhausted fish pushed to the high tide mark and then abandoned, as the Trio's retreat starves you of oxygen and leaves you floundering with only sound clinging to your gills. But it might also leave you with the creepy sensation of a chill searching for your spine."
"It is an impossible music. Impossible to categorise, impossible to dance to, impossible to dream through... and impossible to ignore. You can drink through it comfortably though, and all the while generate a sense of being closer to its inspiration if the collective spirit grabs you. There is in the end no one way of accessing it. Analysing the context of its creation might contribute to an understanding of it that may or may not be useful. Appreciating the method of artists in the context of the social history of their times can be instructive. But listening is the only viable option, not words. That might sound self-evident, but listening in this case amounts to much more than that, which is why a drink might help to get you through the experience. Although their densely textured sound presents a formidable challenge to any listener, this is not impenetrable music. This is music that penetrates you and your psyche in other ways. Because within the vibrant animation that pervades every inch of the surface of their compositions, lies an absolute stillness. In the end the performance becomes a spiritual experience coaxed into existence by visionaries."
"How much music can you listen to? How much music do you need? What form should engagement with this relentlessly modern music take? Approach it as you would approach a transforming fire... or like fallen pieces of the moon."
"Is it fair to say that as a New York Trio they would have been anointed for such bold structural innovation in music and canonized? America does have a dominant spirit of irredeemable materialism and an indifference to the poetry of things, but America can also do many things very well. But to say this music could only have been created within the context of a Soviet shadow is unarguable. The major role of any artist is to make invisible passions either visible or heard. In the expression of those passions, we should realise that artists are shaped by contexts which they do not necessarily choose and which go on to inform the nature of their individuality. Much in American music is muscle and technique, lacking the elusive quality of great music. Just for a second imagine the bloated cadaver of jazz/mock fusion. Now try to imagine instead another direction, a richer musical hybrid of a type that was being invented at that same time in the Seventies in the Soviet Union by groups such as the Ganelin Trio. This music was all but hidden from view by an Iron Curtain that too few on the bright side of it were privileged to peek behind. Leo Feigin of Leo Records in London will one day tell his story about peeking, smuggling and the privileges of portly men in overcoats, and I daresay aspects of it will read like a typical cold war thriller. What a time it must have been."
".....Music like this, heavy, tragic, powerful, astonishing, thrilling is not created in horror or despair, social oppression or political restriction. After all it was a supremely even-handed system: it forbade both the élite and the poor alike to beg in the streets and to steal bread! The music of the Trio is not a political statement. It would trivialise it too much to restrict it to such a petty ephemeral canvas. The Ganelin Trio is light years beyond politics yet inescapably formed by it. The music addresses futility of another sort. It disperses our emotions and throttles our less than common sense by obliging us to address the force of nature itself. You are deluding yourself, it screams, and by the end of any concert recording by the Ganelin Trio you are probably perfectly content to admit it. If the access button in your brain is switched on, you may never listen to music quite the same way again. It may not be an obvious or even a conscious decision. But you will not be able to ignore this epochal roar from those times when greater certainty prevailed and whose pathetic passing may be of some regret. If you were born to this then you were born to riches as nourishing as peasant bread. "