The First Lithuanian Jazz Anthology

Semplice SECD011, 2003

The 3-CD album, "Lithuanian Jazz 1929-1980", is a retrospective of the development of jazz in Lithuania. The collection offers more than three hours of music: from samples of early archive recordings from the 1920s and 30s, to Lithuanian jazz masters from the 1960s and 80s, recorded at the Lithuanian Radio and Vilnius Recording Studios.

The 20th century, sometimes called the epoch of jazz and skyscrapers, was nearly two decades late in coming to Lithuania. With the proclamation of independence in 1918, it was not until the mid-1930s after slow and difficult building of the new state, that Lithuania reached economic prosperity. The provisional capital of Kaunas became a small European city, with stylish restaurants, cafes, cinemas and trendy shops. According to period press, the restaurants and cafes were all crammed during musical sessions, where one could hear the most popular European and American hits, and tunes from the various musicals. Local jazz bands tried to match the best examples of swing orchestras from abroad, and the public learned the latest dances - tango, fox trot, Charleston. A great deal of Lithuanian popular music was recorded and released by companies like Columbia, His Master's Voice, etc., during the inter-war period.

CD I begins with a recording by the Danielius Pomerancas Orchestra, akin to the swing band style, and a unique track by Vic Briedis, a Lithuanian-American pianist, playing with clarinettist Tony Parenti. Lovers of big band jazz will also enjoy the 1960s' recordings by the Lithuanian Light Music Orchestra, conducted by Juozas Tiškus. Tiškus' orchestra was compared to Oleg Lundstrem's big band – the best in the Soviet Union at that time. During the period of the political thaw, there was quite an intensive life at the so-called youth cafe-reading rooms, which became semi-legal jazz clubs. The first jazz festivals emerged in Tallinn and Elektrėnai. Recordings on CD I from this period include tracks by pianist Vyacheslav Ganelin, the Oleg Molokoyedov Quintet, and the Klaipeda Jazz Ensemble "Žėrutis".

CD II offers a broad panorama of Lithuanian jazz from the 1970's era of political torpor and isolation: studio recordings by the Klaipėda Faculty Jazz Orchestra, and concert recordings from the "Baltijos jaunystė" festival – a real breakthrough by the generation of young jazz leaders (represented here by saxophonist Petras Vyšniauskas, pianist Saulius Šiaučiulis, and others).

CD III is dedicated to the great free jazz innovators - pianist and composer Vyacheslav Ganelin, multi-instrumentalist Vladimir Chekasin and drummer Vladimir Tarasov. This trio, known as GTCh, began its career in Vilnius; later, until the 1980s, it performed a great deal in the Soviet Union and abroad, and made a number of recordings. Their concert programmes were appreciated for their novel and radical musical concepts, which not infrequently aroused great excitement on the part of local, and especially foreign, critics and audiences. CD III includes concert recordings during 1975-1980 in Palanga, Vilnius, Moscow, W. Berlin, fragments from their first LP, "Con anima", and historically valuable 1971 recordings by Vladimir Chekasin at the Prague Mozarteum studio, which appear on the "Lithuanian Jazz" collection with kind permission by the Supraphon.

© Rūta Skudienė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 8