Ganelin Trio Priority

Live in Lugano 2006
NotTwo Records MW 783-2

By Ken Waxman

Successor to the now-defunct Soviet trio of the 1970s and 1980s, celebrated for its individualized adaptation of Russian sensibility to contemporary improvisation, this threesome uses a thickset of instruments to multiply the pulsations and textures available on two extended pieces.

A colorist of the first order, Lithuanian-born, Israeli-based keyboardist Vyacheslav Ganelin manipulates triggered sound waves from his synthesizer to comment on, and amplify, his dramatic piano forays. These range from tight, pared-down jazz licks to slabs of overpowering chords, as impressionistic as Tchaikovsky’s. Synth loops provide such add-ons as walking bass lines, calliope rhythms or bell peals as needed. Ganelin’s perfect foil, Lithuanian soprano saxophonist Petras Vysniauskas is a reed stylist whose tonal vibrations are lullaby-like muted or alternately keen nosily and powerful. Whether funneling thick snorts from his horn’s nether regions or arching flat line trills, Vysniauskas’ tone is never pinched. Limiting himself to cymbal pokes, paradiddles and ruffs, German percussionist Klaus Kugel keeps the beat moving without resorting to heavy handedness or foot dragging.

Similarly organized, and of almost the same duration, the second is slightly more accomplished of the two compositions. That’s only because the saxophonist’s mid-section, flutter-tongued freebop is interrupted by a crescendo of cross-pulsed percussion from Kugel and possibly Ganelin on additional drums, while sampled intimations of baby cries and a Slavic vocal chorus extend the implicit polyphony.

In MusicWorks Issue #100