Main PageAbout UsParticipantsGrantees/HostsAlumniMedia/News
Press Articles
Press Releases
Calender of Events
Photo Gallery
US Expert to Consult on Russian Jazz Center Project (Moscow, Russia)
Posted on June 21, 2011

By   Kim Voloshin

Larry Appelbaum and Igor Gavrilov, Director of Yaroslavl Jazz Center
David Goloshchokin, People’s Artist of Russia, Director of St. Petersburg Jazz Philharmonic Hall, and Larry Appelbaum
Natan Leites shows Appelbaum his collection
Larry Appelbaum, a Senior Music Reference Librarian and jazz specialist in the Music Division at the Library of Congress, visited Russia on June 1-10. It was purely business: Larry is consulting an initiative group intent on setting up a public Jazz Research Center – an institution to fuse a national jazz archive with a center for the study of the eventful past and present of Russian jazz.

A little more than a year from now – on October 1, 2012, to be exact – Russian jazz will be 90: the point of departure in faraway 1922 was the first jazz performance in Moscow that received press coverage. Jazz has come a long and difficult way in this country, but up to this day it has not been studied or even documented in any satisfactory manner. In all these ninety years, only two books have been written in Russian about the history of Russian jazz – Sovetskiy dzhaz (Soviet Jazz) by Alexei Batashov (1971) and Istoriya dzazovogo ispolnitelstva v Rossiy (A History of Performing Jazz in Russia) by Vladimir Feuertag (2010), plus a book in English entitled Red and Hot. The Fate of Jazz in Soviet Union by Frederick Starr (1983) – a work rich in detail but not uniformly accurate. The publication in the past two decades of several books of memoirs by and about individual jazzmen, as well as of a number of regional studies, has done little to improve the overall picture: while the writing of the history of jazz in Russia (and, more broadly, all of the USSR) still remains in its infancy, jazz musicians, organizers, researchers, critics and collectors leave this world according to an implacable logic, and their archives not always land in interested hands. The jazz community knows of many sad cases when the indifference or ignorance of heirs caused large and truly unique collections related to the history of jazz in the FSU to be sold dirt cheap, given away to accidental people or, more often than not, simply dumped on a garbage heap. Even those collections which are in the good hands of real enthusiasts are at risk of destruction and loss just because home conditions make it difficult to maintain the physical status and integrity of sound recordings on unstable and non-durable media (especially magnetic tapes), documents on brittle low-quality paper, fading photographs, and films disintegrating in your hands. Furthermore, a good, well-kept private collection is usually off limits even to professional researchers, let alone the wider circles of jazz history buffs.

COMING UP NEXT: “Who Is To Blame?”, “What Is To Be Done?”, and “Where To Run?”— looking for answers to the eternal Russian questions with the help of an American colleague

In a word, the founding of a national public institution for collecting, storing, cataloguing, putting materials on the history of jazz in this country (documents, sheet music, photographs, audio and video recordings) back in circulation, conducting research and educational work, and organizing access to them for the broadest possible circle of people is long overdue. The initiating group gathered in Moscow and stated its desire to set up such a center. The Open World Leadership Center, which has linked the emerging leaders of Russia and Eurasia to their U.S. counterparts since 1999, facilitated Appelbaum’s journey to Russia by applying for a generous travel grant from the Trust for Mutual Understanding (TMU). Appelbaum was granted a travel grant with the request to provide methodological assistance, considering the enormous experience of dealing with collections related to the history of music and the music industry that the leading library and archive center of the homeland of jazz has gained over decades. The request was heeded, and the LoC sent Larry Appelbaum. Larry combines extensive knowledge of preservation of music-related items with a profound understanding of jazz music: apart from taking care of LoC music collections, he has hosted a weekly two-hour program at a Washington, DC FM station for 30 years and written regularly for JazzTimes, a leading US-based publication on the subject, for the past ten years.

Larry had a number of meetings with the Jazz Center initiative group and some of the major Russian jazz history collectors. In Yaroslavl, he met with Igor Gavrilov, director of Yaroslavl Jazz Center — a potential site for collecting, storing and processing items for the future collection. In Moscow, he was introduced to the broad membership of the initiative group, which includes musicians (among them two jazzmen – People’s Artists of Russia), academics, producers and journalists. In St. Petersburg, there were interesting and useful meetings with Natan Leites, the owner of a major collection on the history of the jazz movement in the FSU, David Goloshchokin, director of St. Petersburg State Jazz Philharmonic Hall, and Vladimir Feuertag, a leading expert in the history of Russian jazz. At the Moscow meeting, the initiative group approved Mikhail Mitropolsky as research director of the future center. Mitropolsky is a radio host, columnist for Jazz. Ru magazine, and lecturer on the history of jazz at Moscow College of Improvisatory Music.

Now both Appelbaum and the Russian initiative group have to draw up the jazz center project in detail. Meanwhile, work has got under way to determine the scope of archive materials for the future center. One recent find is a part of the personal archive of Igor Sigov in Moscow. Sigov, a pioneer of jazz studies in the post-WWII era, founded the legendary Group for the Study of Jazz in the USSR, which translated works on the evolution and contemporary status of jazz throughout the world and disseminated them as samizdat. After his untimely death in 1965, the Group was led by Yuri Vermenich, a jazz fan in the provincial town of Voronezh, who did much to further “jazz samizdat” in the Soviet Union. Sigov’s widow, Alla, has given all she had left of Igor’s archive to the initiative group of the Russian Jazz Research Center on the condition that the materials will be made accessible to the public as soon as the Center opens.

[Reprinted with Permission]