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Perth Jazz Society
October 1990

The ads read "The Russians Are Coming". On Monday September 24 they came and they conquered with a dazzling display of instrumental technique and musicianship.
The first hour and ten minutes of the concert was performed in the usual format of just piano and trumpet, starting with the standard "Blue Moon". From the start it was obvious these musicians had done their homework and the choice of such hackneyed standard was no barrier to these two fine musicians. The tune was only barely stated by the trumpet player Alex Fischer (a technique he used throughout the night to a great effect). With the strong rhythmic concept apparent in Daniel Kramer's piano playing and his equally as strong left foot taking the place of the rest of the rhythm section, a powerful swing feel was generated. Over this, Alex Fischsr proceeded to turn this old standard inside our with adventurous, but always melodic, improvisations played with impeccable technique. Middle register playing with a fat orchestral sound seemed to be his forte enhancing his long melodic phrasing which always sounded inventive and fresh.

The pianist's prodigious technique was soon manifest, but unlike some musicians technically gifted who display technique at the expense of taste and musicality, Kramer was able to deliver the goods in a manner that was musically satisfying and exciting.

After "Blue Moon" some originals, with unpronounceable names followed showing that both players had a depth of knowledge of the jazz genre and were able to produce high quality, jazz composition that both swung and introduced interesting variations on the standard jazz form.
Perhaps the next set of numbers, for this writer at least was the highlight of the night Daniel Krawar played two solos of the old jazz standards: "Whispering" and "After You've Gone". These somewhat unlikely choices of repertoire were a "tour de force" for the pianist. It very quickly reminded one of the style of Tatum and perhaps even Fats Waller, with the impeccable stride technique and incredible left hand solo that was delivered in "Whispering". It showed that Kramer had an excellent grasp of early jazz styles and was able to play them authentically and yet comfortably slip into contemporary jazz with little effort or loss of credibility.

While the choice of material for the night's performance was reasonably eclectic, (both players had a great depth of style) the main fare for the night seemed to stop short of any avant-garde or new music and the classic bop style was firmly entrenched... 
The second set was once again standard jazz repertoire with such old chestnuts as "Pordido', "Green Dolphin Steet" and "All The Things You Are". The opener to this set was a piano solo on Charlie Packer's "Confirmation". It takes creative, responsive and sympathetic musicians to make these standards sound fresh and interesting and this was certainly the case in this set... 
A most enjoyable night of high quality jazz.


The Age, Melbourne
5 October 1990

nterviewing Russia's JAZZNOST DUO, Alexander Fischer and Daniel
Kramer, is a fascinating experience. They are talkative and eager to
I mention that I have read about jazz musicians in Russia suffering from state suppression. Daniel Kramer, a classical piano virtuoso who turned to jazz eight years ago, shrugs: "For myself, I have not had any troubles from official organisations. I get enough jobs to keep me busy. There are 60 jazz festivals in Russia every year, and we play at almost every one," he says.

But Alexander Fischer, widely regarded as the Soviet Union's top jazz trumpeter, has a different view. He says. "Jazz has had a lot of difficult periods in Soviet history. I think because the music came from abroad, it was not a classical art form in the view of officials. Even in the mid-60s, during the Cold War, Russia had a lot of exchanges with America: artists such as Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington toured our country. But even then, no jazz musician could be sure about his future.
In my small experience, it is only over the last 12 or 13 years that it is possible to be a professional jazz musician in Russia."

Is this tied in with Mr Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost policies? 
Mr Fischer smiles. "Strangely enough, good things started to happen before perestroika. And now in some ways it is more difficult: the official management companies are more interested in popular performers who will fill big halls and stadiums and collect a lot of money."
"We have a new Minister for Culture, Nikolai Gubenko, who used to be a famous actor. He is trying to make things easier for artists and Gorbachev has officially supported his policies. So these developments give us hope." 
In the little Russian jazz that I have heard, humor seems to be an important element. Mr Fischer smiles. "There are a lot of ensembles in Russia, and you will find many different approaches there. But we are pleased if our arrangements are recognisable to foreign listeners, and they can share some humor that may be in there. This says that the music doesn't have to be translated."
The Jazznost Duo performs at Doctor Jazz, Cordon, tonignt and tomorrow night.


OTS Sydney,
Wednesday 3rd October, 1990

- A.Fisher: When free jazz was developing I had different musical interests so I wasn't effected by it. I did not hear much of it. Later I began listening and appreciating its musical sense, dynamics, development and of course freedom.

- O.T.S. What are your reactions to The Engine Room?
- D.Kramer: They were very beautiful musicians. I first heard them on a tape two months before they arrived in Russia. They were harmonically very sophisticated, their playing had a fine sense of form. It was intelligent and without any gimmicks. I was especially impressed with their usage of rhythm I would call it comprehensive. They exhibit their own faith in the music. 

- O.T.S. And the Sydney gigs? 
- D.Kramer: All musicians find great pleasure in playing with others at such a high level. I'm looking forward to playing with them as a group rather than in a jam session in Russia. 
- A.Fisher: I agree with all that, but I'd like to add that they are warm and friendly people with open hearts and this is reflected in their music. 
And so say we all.

Alexander Fisher and Daniel Kramer will perform with The Engine Room at: The Strawberry Hill Hotel - Monday October 15, Tuesday October 16, The Real Ale Cafe - Wednesday October 17th.
O.T.S. readers can find out more about Soviet Jazz in S. Fredericks Starr: Red and Hot: The Fate Of Jazz in the Soviet Union (OUP, 1983)
Leo Feigm (ed): Russian Jazz, New Identity (Quartet, 1985).
Records of Soviet Jazz are on Melodiya, Muza Suprophon, AKM and Leo records. 


Manly Daily,
September 28, 1990


The spirit of glasnost and a special funding program has allowed Russian jazz musicians Alexander Fischer and Danil Kramer to play at this weekend's Manly Jazz Festival.
They will again team up with Australian-based' group The Engine Room after first playing with them in a "ground breaking" tour of the Soviet Union last year.
Australian National Jazz coordinator Eric Myers said: the "jazznost duo" had flown to Australia thanks to a special fund set up in the USSR in remembrance of one of the earliest Soviet dissidents General Grigorenko.
Grigorenko had been "fairly severely" persecuted under the Brezhnev regime because he spoke out about freedom of expression.
"To have a major figure speak out against the government was a kind of shock at the time," Mr Myers said.
As a result, the fund was set up for artists to be able to express themselves including performing overseas.
Mr Myers said: musicians and performing anists found it very difficult to survive in the USSR.
"There's virtually no government assistance, except for the Bolshoi Ballet and other flagship Companies," he said. Setting up a special fund for artists was a real political developement.
Mr Myers said: when the two Russians first played with Australian musicians, the group gelled. They did not need to warm up or find each other's style.
"One of the highlights of the Engine Room's tour was a jam session with the two Russians in Leningrad," he said. "This took place before an audience of 500 people after normal festivities. There was an instant rapport between the Australians and Danil and Alexander."
"It produced some of the most exciting jazz I've ever heard, and the crowd just went wild."
Mr Myers said: "Kramer is an extraordinary pianist - a classical virtuoso who was turned on to jazz in the early 1980s. Fisher is without question the finest trumpeter in the Soviet Union - many people in the West know him because of his work with the Russian group Allegro."
Danil and Alexander said there were a lot of different styles of jazz being played in the Soviet Union, and many musicians were now travelling abroad.
Alexander had played venues all over the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as well as France, West Germany and Austria.
"It's wonderful to travel, why not? It's always a pleasure for Soviet people to go abroad," he said.
The Engine Room, when they play with the Russians tomorrow at the Manly Public School auditorium at 4.30pm will comprise bassist Nicki Parrot, drummer John Pochee and pianist Roger Frampton.

by Alan WOOD

SUNDAY, Perth, September 30, 1990

Any doubts about the universal appeal of jazz were dispelled by the Russian duo last Monday night at the Hyde Park hotel.
Alexander Fisher on trumpet and Daniel Kramer on piano delivered a dazzling display on the first visit of any jazz men to Australia from the USSR.
The audience were probably expecting virtuoso technique but not the variety of flare, rhythmic subtlety and humor the pair produced.
Starting with the unlikely standard Blue Moon, the twosome transformed the tired tune with fresh harmonies and improvisation. They followed this with three of their own compositions showing a high degree of interplay on well-rehearsed themes with much melodic invention.
Fisher displayed his skill with the harmon mute and also on flugelhorn in Softly As In A Morning Sunnse. Playing claves in a bright samba, he inspired his partner to perform with powerful pianistics and then to slap the woodwork in a humorous exchange.
Chris Paraha on electric bass and Chris Tarr on drums joined in on the second set for some stirring standards with a rendition of Green Dolphin Street as probably the highlight.
The Perth Jazz Society deserve congratulations for arranging this visit and it is a pity a bigger audience was not present for such accomplished artists.


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