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      Leningrad 1980s

• Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika – all documents
• Сергей Курёхин и Поп-механика – все документы


Hans Kumpf: My Trips to Russia

1980 - 1984


first published in
Russian Jazz: New Identity. Edited by Leo Feigin. London: Quartet Books, 1986
Translated from the German, by Christa Kuch and Martin Cooper. Courtesy of the author.

• page 1 • Introductory Remarks / Preface
Leningrad (May/June 1980) Contemporary Music Club

• page 2 • Leningrad (December 1980/January 1981)
LP Recording "Jam Session Leningrad"

• page 3 • Leningrad/Moscow (June 1981)
John Fischer and Sergey Kuryokhin; LP Recording "Jam Session Moscow”

• page 4 • Leningrad / August 1983
Sergey Kuryokhin and Friends: Leningrad Collective Improvisations (english)

• page 5 • Leningrad / August 1983
Sergey Kuryokhin and Friends: Leningrad Collective Improvisations (deutsch)

• page 6 • Moscow, the Baltic States and Leningrad (April 1984)
Pop Mekhanika; LP Recording “On a Baltic Trip”

• page 7 • Documents
Kevin Whitehead: Hans Kumpf and Anatolij Vapirow Trio – Jam Session Leningrad

• Hans Kumpf and Sergey Kuryokhin: read the article by Hannelore Fobo (Sept. 2017)


• page 6 • Moscow, the Baltic States and Leningrad (April 1984)
Pop Mekhanika; LP Recording “On a Baltic Trip”

Immediately after arriving in Moscow I go to a Palace of Culture where a concert with the groups around Sergey Kuryokhin is in full swing. First, I am invited to participate, and then they don't want me to join in, arguing that difficulties might arise if a Westerner performs in public without official permission. Finally, I sneak without an announcement into a group of twenty musicians, the Crazy Music Orchestra which is reacting to the hand-signs of its bandleader.

Valentina Ponomareva, Sergey Kuryokhin, Sergey Letov, Igor Butman, Alexander Alexandrov
Moskvorechie Palace of Culture, Moscow, 14 April 1984 • Photo: Hans Kumpf
This concert is now being regarded as Kuryokhin's first “Pop Mekhanika” concert.
Hans Kumpf recorded it and presented a fragment during an interview for the ARD studio Moscow,
the German broadcaster, which took place immediately after the concert.


In the crowded theatre, Kuryokhin, until recently celebrated as an imaginative avant-garde newcomer, is reaping enthusiastic applause for attempting a 'Robot Dance'.

Valentina Ponomareva, unknown, Sergey Letov, Viktor Solugub, Vladimir Dikansky,
Grigory Sologub, Alexander Lipnitsky, Sergey Kuryokhin
Moskvorechie Palace of Culture, Moscow, 14 April 1984 • Photo: Hans Kumpf


Eleven days later I am to play with Kuryokhin again. This time we create a Russian tango, together with Boris Grebenshchikov as singer and cellist. But this time the environment is entirely different, a dirty attic without furniture except for the grand piano which is out of tune: the 'new' clubroom of the unorthodox Leningrad literati.

Boris Grebenshikov (cello), Sergey Kuryokhin (grand piano) and Hans Kumpf (clarinet)
venue: “5-я студия” [The Fifth Studio], also known as “Театр Эрика Горошевского” [Erik Goroshevsky Theatre],
a section of the "Club 81“ located on prospekt Chernishevskogo 3, at the attic of the building.
Leningrad, 1984 • photo: archive Hans Kumpf
Hans Kumpf recorded the jam session. The audio tape has not yet been published.


Between Moscow and Leningrad less mysterious performances in the Baltic Republics take place. The three new republics in the west of the Soviet Union have a reputation for being rebellious, due to the fact that the omnipotent party couldn't make it up to the usual 99.9% in the last election, but only 99.7%. Moscow is far off, people think, and cultivate their national languages and keep their distance from everything that is Russian. An avant-gardistic, even seemingly destructive art is allowed to develop on the Baltic Coast which at the Moskva or Neva would be banished into subculture.

After Leningrad, Vilnius is the second Soviet centre for free jazz, thanks to the Ganelin Trio, which, according to general opinion, is the leading jazz ensemble of this huge country and which, by its concert tours, secures greatly needed currency from capitalist countries abroad. The drummer Vladimir Tarasov made a point of returning earlier from Odessa and organized a session for me. Even posters were painted and invitations printed (with the index number of censorship 6127).

Hans Kumpf and Vladimir Tarasov
Red Room at the LTSR Meno Darbutoju Rumai, Vilnius, 1984
Photo: archive Hans Kump
Hans Kumpf recorded the jam session with Vladimir Tarasov and Vyacheslov Ganelon with a stereo walkman and released a part of it on the B-side of his LP “On a Baltic Trip“, 1984 Leo Records


Solemn was the place where we improvised: the Red Room in the LTSR Meno Darbuotoju Rumai is the historical house of arts in which the chess championship had recently taken place. Vyacheslav Ganelin was playing his Japanese Roland synthesizer for the first time and dense music developed, ranging from sound arrangements to Gospel elements.

Vyacheslav Ganelin
Red Room at the LTSR Meno Darbutoju Rumai, Vilnius, 1984
Photo: Hans Kumpf


The audience, consisting mainly of artists and jazz experts, apparently enjoyed the performance in the crowded room and we, the musicians, also considered the concert a success.


In 1975 a jazz club had been founded in Riga, the Riga Dzeza Klubs, now housed in the Cafe Allegro. Of course, everything has to have permission from higher up; one is dependent on the one and only youth organization, the Komsomolzes. Occasionally, the Great Comrade Secretary-General is quoted in the club bulletin. The club, however, is not doing too well, I'm told. The people of Riga are quite indifferent and arrogant, and progressive jazz tendencies are not promoted by the culture bureaucrats.

Hans Kumpf and Ivars Galenieks
Café Allegro, Riga, 1984 • Photo: archive Hans Kumpf
A 6:55 fraction of the duet was published on the A-side of “On a Baltic Trip”.


A session is planned for the late afternoon, in which the tenor sax player Rajmond Raubishko and bassist Ivars Galenieks are my notable partners. They belong to the most qualified musicians playing these instruments in the Soviet Union. The musical result of the meeting is comparatively traditional, concentrating on riffs, central tones and scales. And because waitresses are noisily clattering dishes, silent concentration is made impossible .

Outside of town, a further performance with my participation is to take place immediately after this one. On the wall of the entrance hall, Komsomol members are honoured by numerous awards; inside the assembly room the walls are decorated with slogans and pictures of active workers. Now, my fellow-musicians are mainly younger amateurs, inspired by rock music.


Tallinn had gone down for ever into Soviet jazz history when the American sax player Charles Lloyd had a sensational success during a festival there. But obviously, this was too much freedom for the authorities in Moscow. On a smaller scale, the conservatory is now allowed to organize festivities for students' jazz.

The finale of Tudengi Jazz '84 is a 'Jatsu Jammi' in the huge cafeteria of the university. Mainstream is in demand from the Soviet youth. The fifteen-year-old Armenian Vagan Karapetian proves to be a remarkably vital talent on piano, congas and a hot scat vocalist. I myself join in on 'Summertime' and 'Satin Doll' and create a duo of Spanish flavour with the sax player Lembit Saarsalu.

Lembit Saarsalu
Tallinn, 1984 • Photo: Hans Kumpf


The following meetings of saxophone and clarinet take place without an audience. Saarsalu, having produced two records of his own on the national Melodiya label, works as a musician in a vaudeville theatre, also for television, and has his connections in Tallinn.

Niguliste Kirik
Tallinn, 1984 • Photo: Hans Kumpf
In this church Hans Kumpf recorded his duet with Lembit Saarsalu for the LP “On a Baltic Trip”, 1984.


Thus, we get the chance to play in Niguliste Kirik, a church with an echo of ten seconds (an unforgettable experience) and in the medieval Old City Hall, which just recently has been renovated. The guide's comment: 'Today, a solemn reception will take place in the Old City Hall. War veterans and meritorious workers will be honoured, well-known orchestras and soloists will perform.' The architectural atmosphere influences our mainly modal music. The pianist Rein Rannap who, the evening before, had his own TV show on themes of Bach and Gershwin, also takes part in this festivity. As a rule he plays as a soloist, but he can also improvise in a group.

Rejn Rannap
During the recording of a trio with Hans Kumpf and Lembit Saarsalu for the LP “Ona a Baltic Trip”
Tallinn, Town Hall, 1984 • Photo: Hans Kumpf


Before leaving the town there is a session with Tonu Naissoo, quite in a rush. We are making a recording in the house of the Composers' Union, during which the son of the famous composer Uno Naissoo is using a prepared piano and manipulating the strings in the interior of the grand piano . Usually, he plays in a rather conventional manner, and he writes music for advertisements on TV. Back in 'real' Russia, in Leningrad, the joviality and tranquillity of the Baltic is over. Jam sessions, either in a church or with Komsomol members, or in a house of arts with a clarinetist who had come from the West as a tourist - here, this would be an impossible thing. Nyet!




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