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Well, that's as maybe; to my mind however this current ensemble displays a richly distinctive and wholly idiosyncratic musical mindset; with gleanings from the legacies of Bach, Shostakovitch, Brubeck, the 'classical minimalists' and Thelonius Monk.
It's generally given that the east Europeans sought to develop their own means of musical expression, independently of Western European input and any of the predominant American trends. That proved barely possible; the influence of Black American musicians (Dizzie Gillespie, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane) was inescapable -- the greatest of them were heard in Paris and beyond.
Unlike a vast majority of other jazzmen the Ganelin Trio appear to favour symphony-length items and this in itself signals extensive exploratory forays with shifting and transformed themes.
While their rhythmic inclinations are notably dissimilar -- whether intentional or happenstance -- I find significant areas of similarity between the work of Thelonius Monk (1917-1982) and the Eastern combo. Monk's unorthodox style combined highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic uses of silences and hesitations.
These prompted saxophone legend Coltrane to remark; 'I always had to be alert with Monk because if you didn't remain aware of what was going on all the time you'd suddenly feel as if you'd stepped into an empty elevator shaft.' On another occasion Coltrane put it this way -- 'If you didn't pay close attention (in Monk's complex musical structures) you could get so lost you'd never find the way back.'
Petras Vysniauskas. Screenshot © 2006 Nemu Records
Today's Ganelin trio (as on this DVD) has 'sidemen' Petras Vysniauskas on saxes and Klaus Kugel on drums and I (together with the 2005 Vilnius Philharmony audience) find the effect of their daring, multi-laminated sound ineluctably absorbing.
Copyright © 31 December 2007
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand