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Ancora Da Capo

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Album Review

Composed by pianist/leader Vyacheslav Ganelin, Ancora Da Capo is an inspired major work consisting of two parts, recorded live on two separate occasions in 1980 and each nearly 40 minutes long. The Ganelin Trio's brand of loosely structured free jazz was something really distinctive, though unfamiliar listeners might use the Art Ensemble of Chicago as a loose comparison since the two groups share several common elements: multi-instrumentalism (the trio's members play 16 instruments among themselves here); liberal uses of space, miscellaneous percussion sounds, and traditional/folk music references; and an anything-goes sense of humor. All of these qualities are evident on Ancora Da Capo. The piece has a few pre-composed themes (which are actually more alluded to than they are clearly stated) and an overarching form that guides the playing along, but the bulk of the music is heavily improvised within this larger framework. "Part 1" begins quietly with several minutes of chimes, shakers, and rattling percussion sounds before Ganelin and Vladimir Chekasin switch to piano and clarinet, respectively, improvising sparsely and patiently around a skeletal theme. Things heat up about halfway through when a new theme enters, as percussionist Vladimir Tarasov slides into a more propulsive free jazz groove and Chekasin's saxophone begins honking and vocalizing. Subsequently, there are more rattling percussion noises, some violin scrapes courtesy of Chekasin, a Ganelin piano solo that veers from fluid bop references to inside-the-instrument plucking, and a raucous finale that finds Chekasin quacking and literally screaming through his horn before he works his way back to the closing melodic theme. "Part 2" incorporates moments of actual toe-tapping, swing-like rhythms, along with primitive synthesizer sounds, more wild soloing from Chekasin (who sometimes blows two horns at once) and Ganelin, and, finally, a folk-like closing theme that brings things to a rousing conclusion. Ancora Da Capo has a rare balance of form and freedom, wildness and restraint that makes it continually surprising (at times even jarringly so) as well as remarkably durable in terms of repeated listening. [Note that Ancora Da Capo originally came out in the form of two separate LPs; the CD combines includes the original release of "Part 1," recorded in Leningrad, with a different version of "Part 2," which was performed weeks earlier in Berlin but not available for release when the original LPs came out.]

Biography

Formed: 1971

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s

The late Soviet Union was not renowned for its contributions to jazz, but it did produce at least one notable group, for in the '70s and '80s the Ganelin Trio was arguably the world's greatest free jazz ensemble. Comprised of pianist Vyacheslav Ganelin, saxophonist Vladimir Chekasin, and drummer Vladimir Tarasov, the trio's mostly improvised music was as emotionally intense as anything being created in the U.S. — or anywhere else — at the time. The three members were extraordinarily skilled,...
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Ancora Da Capo, The Ganelin Trio
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