[Dixielandjazz] Siberian Jazz-- with comments from various observers

Norman Vickers nvickers1 at cox.net
Fri Aug 15 08:16:39 PDT 2003

Hello Listmates:  The following was sent to me by a friend.  In circulating
it around, our listmaster Bob Ringwald
suggested it might be of interest to the DJML.  So here it is in sequence:
Norman Vickers

Subject: Siberian Jazz

You've no doubt heard of New Orleans Jazz, Chicago Jazz, Harlem Jazz, Kansas
City Jazz, West Coast Jazz, even Jazz de Paris (Le Jazz Hot!).

Now there is Siberian Jazz!

My brother, Tom and I went to the Orange County Jazz Festival in Anaheim
last Saturday.  We enjoyed wonderful music and met up with friends and
performers we've know from past festivals, and other events, etc.

One group stood out and needs their special story told . . . The Siberian
Jazz Band from Russia.  The following article appeared in the Orange County
Classic Rag

For Saturday, 8/9/03:

"You can thank some generous GIs in WWII for the appearance of the Siberian
Jazz Band here this weekend.  As the war was coming to a close, American
troops freed a Russian soldier who had spent almost four years as a German
prisoner.  When he was sent back to his home village in Siberia four months
later, the GIs gave him some gifts including jazz records.

"Two years later, in 1947, he became a father.  His son, Boris Balakhnine,
leader of the Siberian Jazz Band.

"When the infant Boris cried, his father calmed him by playing his American
records.  So, Boris grew up listening to a kind of music that was utterly
strange to his neighboring villagers.

"Growing up, Boris learned that playing jazz, the music of the capitalist
US, was - well, discouraged in Communist USSR.  But he had his heart set on
it.  He hung around a local brass band in order to learn trumpet.  At 15, he
ran away to Novosibirsk, a city with a population of more than a million, to
enter the music college.

"At that time in the USSR, all Boris needed to enter a state-sponsored music
college was to prove that he had completed nine years of school and to
demonstrate an adequate proficiency in playing an instrument.  There was not
only no tuition, the state paid him a stipend.

"He supplemented his income by playing music.  But not jazz.  For jazz, he
and his friends had to go underground.  Not that they were likely to be
arrested.  However, jazz earned them nothing , and periodically, the KGB
invited them in to explain why they had kept playing the music of the

"In the early 1980s, Boris signed on with a Russian Army brass band for a
six-year stint in Eastern Germany.  There, he was surprised to find, jazz
and Dixieland were both popular and officially accepted.  By the time he
returned home, there was a general relaxation of controls.  In 1988, he
organized the Siberian Dixieland Jazz Band, recruiting men he had known in
the underground.

"Seven years ago they were adopted by the Novosibirsk Philharmonic Society
and designated a 'state orchestra' ."

Both Tom and I agree, the Siberian Jazz Band was one of the highlights of
the festival, both for the energetic music they played and for the path
taken to get to Orange County.

Keep those toes a-tappin'.  :)

Dr. Jazz / San Diego
Norman Vickers responded:

> I was in Sacramento one year and the Leningrad Jazz Band performed.  They
> were 25 years together. he banjo player danced while he played banjo.  Did
> astonishing things, with a complete deadpan.  The pianist sang like Louis
> Armstrong-- phonetically-- didn't know a word of English otherwise.  Did a
> great imitation.
> Musician Guys writing about their encounters with them  said that they had
> two things in common, music and alcohol., and got along famously.
> The Siberian guys are new to me.
> I'll pass this along to some of my California friends to see if they can
> enlilghten us.
Don Jones, Editor of American Rag, responded:

Subject: Siberian Jazz

Hello to one and all:
One can't say too many good things about the Siberian Jazz Band.

They are all fine musicians, with excellent technique and intonation.

Since they speak no English, they play one tune after another without a word
to the audience, which takes some getting used to.

They were paired with two other bands (Titan Hot Seven and South Frisco
J.B.) and were mixed and matched with other various ensembles all to the
absolute delight of the audiences.

I'm convinced world peace would be achieved much faster and with less blood
shed if we insisted that every major summit meeting and U.N. assembly be
preceded and concluded with a two-band trad jazz combination from the host
country and the U.S. playing for the delegates to positively adjust their
attitudes with some good old good ones. Trad Jazz is the universal language
of happiness and when played as these bands did this past weekend they
conveyed the ability of 14 men, who couldn't even speak the same language,
to start and stop together and whale to high heaven in between with an
abundance of joy.

For what it's worth, Don Jones

Thank you-- I look forward to your comments
Norman Vickers


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