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Ganelin Trio: Poco a Poco

The saga of The Ganelin Trio, an avant-garde jazz ensemble from the Soviet Union, was one of the most extraordinary stories of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Keyboardist Vyacheslav Ganelin, saxophonist Vladimir Chekasin and percussionist Vladimir Tarasov briefly captured the jazz world’s attention through infrequent and highly policed tours, but more by far was the series of recordings smuggled samizdat style out of the Eastern bloc, and released by indefatigable booster Leo Feigin on his U.K.-based Leo label. The Trio burned incandescently for over a decade, fizzling out in the mid-’80s when Ganelin defected to the West and took up residence in Israel. All three remain active separately, but a spate of new reissues allows a fresh assessment of the group’s achievements.

Poco a Poco, the first Ganelin CD released by Leo back in 1988, was reissued late last year in a limited edition of 500 copies. If you missed it the first time around, don’t make the same mistake twice; this is not only one of the group’s finest documents, but one of the most distinctive visions of post-’60s avant-garde jazz available. The disc presents a concert recorded in Novosibirsk in February 1978. The recording quality, as might be expected, is brittle and thin; these are, after all, “officially” unauthorized recordings. Still, it takes little effort to get used to the sound, and the quality of the performance far outweighs such a caveat.

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