A new compilation of jazz from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc is available online on London-based NTS radio.
Curated by DJ and music researcher Chahoud Ernesto, the set includes tracks from classic Russian saxophonist Anatoly Vapirov, Tarkovsky film score composer Eduart Artemy, the delicate improvised singing of the Czech Republic’s Mirka Křivánková, and the free jazz Trio Wiaczeslawa Ganielina.
“The Soviet jazz scene was not disconnected from what was happening outside of the Iron Curtain,” Chahoud says. “Take, for example, Benny Goodman’s tour of the Soviet Union in 1962 and Duke Ellington’s in 1971 — they were impressed by Soviet musicians. The Eastern Bloc had great music schools and the material means to produce and record,” he added.
“It’s a very interesting scene and it’s very exciting to dig into it properly — you can see how it was developing from swing to bebop, free jazz, rock, fusion, progressive, electronic. Much like all other scenes, there are a lot of great records and a lot of shit records too, which turns the ride into an adventure,” Chahoud told The Calvert Journal.
Born to a Lebanese family with communist sympathies, Chahoud has had an interest in the USSR from an early age, but he says he has only started researching Soviet-era music during lockdown.