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The Ganelin Trio

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Russian improvisation trio, one of the early Soviet free jazz bands.

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, possessed abundant chops and imagination. In style and instrumentation, the band was similar to Cecil Taylor’s trio with Sunny Murray and Jimmy Lyons. It differed, however, in several ways. First, the Ganelin Trio utilized different materials; the musicians’ backgrounds dictated as much. Secondly, the instrumentation wasn’t exactly the same; Ganelin frequently played piano, keyboard bass, and percussion — sometimes simultaneously — and Chekasin was adept at playing two saxophones at once. Finally, the Ganelin Trio was truly a band of equals. Where Taylor ultimately dominated his band, Ganelin, Chekasin, and Tarasov were consummate team players, each complementing, inspiring, and cooperating with the other. Born in Moscow, Ganelin played in jazz and dance bands as a teenager. He attended the Lithuanian State Conservatory in Vilnius, graduating in 1968.

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