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Old Bottles

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Album Review

Old Bottles is a remarkable recording that presents two vintage, extended Ganelin pieces in new settings. The first, "Non Troppo, is an unissued live recording from 1983, while "New Wine" was previously available on LP (Leo, 112). Vyacheslav Ganelin (on piano and electric guitar, and more), Vladimir Tarasov (on all manner of drums and percussion), and Vladimir Chekasin (on saxophones, clarinets, bassett-horn, trombone, and voice) start "Non Troppo" quietly — not exactly the way they've played it in the past — with many surprises to follow. Taking on Bartok's "Microcosmos" as a foundation for group improvisation is a heady thing, but these three make it seem like a Road Runner cartoon! This is harmonic invention stretched to its most extreme, and then torn apart in the interest of something completely new and different that might not make sense, but makes sense somehow.

"New Wine" reveals, in a much more careful, though still intense way, how the group's architecture of improvisation worked, going from the inside out, including an intricate drum solo, a reinvention of "Too Close for Comfort," and time signatures colliding with key changes, as harmonic response and melodic convention are tossed into the dustbin. All of the freedom in the piece was earned by the restraint of the beginning, and a wealth of generated ideas. This track is one of the most stellar examples of how group improvising happens. Old Bottles is two sides of the Ganelin Trio that are most compelling: a willingness to throw convention to the dogs in order to find music's heart (and often that heart had a really funny face drawn on it) and the taste and sheer musicianship it takes to honor that tradition as a way of creating a new kind of jazz, one excluding nothing that is honest and interesting.


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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Old Bottles, The Ganelin Trio
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