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Sergey Kuryokhin: Improvisations and Performances
• page 3 • Hans Kumpf and Sergey Kuryokhin 1980-1981: the first meetings
The 1983 Leningrad Collective Improvisations had been organised by Sergey Kuryokhin, with whom Hans Kumpf had played before: twice in 1980, and again in 1981.
He are Kumpf’s first impressions of Kuryokhin from a concert at the Kirov Palace of Culture, June 1980:
Even in relaxed moods order and discipline predominate, and there is no musical exhibitionism. Vapirov, who studied the classical clarinet and now teaches the saxophone at the Leningrad Musical Academy, is regarded as the leading avant-garde saxophonist in this city of four million inhabitants, while his partner Kuryokhin, who also uses ‘prepared’ pianos, like John Cage, is the chief avant-garde pianist. more>>
Anatoly Vapirov and Sergey Kuryokhin
After the concert, Kumpf got to know Vapirov, Kuryokhin and other jazz musicians from the “Contemporary Music Club” (Клуб современной музыки), Leningrad’s avant-garde Jazz Club, and he was invited to pay them another visit. In December 1980 he smuggled his clarinet into the Soviet Union, recorded a jam session, and then smuggled the tapes out of the country to produce the LP “Leningrad Jam Session” with Anatoly Vapirov (sax), Alexander Alexandrov (bassoon), Sergey Kuryokhin (piano), and Hans Kumpf (clarinet). “Leningrad Jam Session”, released on Kumpf’s label AKM in 1981, became the first record with a contribution by Sergey Kuryokhin more>> and more>>. Arranged by Kuryokhin, the recording took place at the sound studio of the Musorgsky Musical College.
Sergey Kuryokhin, Anatoly Vapirov and Alexander Alexandrov
Kumpf commented on the jam session: “The music clicked in spite of the language difficulties (the Russian jazz musicians could barely speak English) because of the common code of music. In the performance of the pieces nothing definite was prearranged except f?? t?? instrumentation and a vague outline of what was to be played.”
Kevin Whitehead reviewed the LP in the May 1982 edition of the prestigious magazine “Cadence – The American Review of Jazz & Blues.” The review ends with the following lines:
The circumstances of the recording were a real adventure, as the presence of a West-German musician and the recording itself had to be concealed from security officers and other staff. In order to protect his hosts, Kumpf decided to refer, in his text for the LP, to the Lensoviet Cultural Palace as the place of recording. It provided a more official address, although Kumpf had to sneak unnoticed into this place, too.
The Lensoviet Cultural Palace, more exactly a hall on its second floor, was the venue for concerts organised by the “Contemporary Music Club”. On 29 December 1980, shortly after the LP recording, Kumpf joined musicians for concert there. Participants at this concert were, among others, Vapirov, Alexandrov and Volkov. Kumpf wrote: “I was most impressed by the bass player Vladimir Volkov with whom I played a delightful and subtle duet.” more>> 
Sergey Kuryokhin, Anatoly Vapirov, Vladimir Volkov, Hans Kumpf and Alexander Alexandrov
Kumpf’s next trip to the Soviet Union, in June 1981, took place at the same time as that of American pianist John Fischer. In Leningrad, they played at the “Contemporary Music Club” (6 June 1981) with Vapirov, Kuryokhin, Alexandrov, Volkov (bass), Gayvoronsky (flugelhorn), Kondrashkin (drums) and Vladislav Makarov (cello), who had come especially from Smolensk. Here are Kumpf’s comments:
In Moscow, Kumpf recorded with John Fischer, pianist Leonid Chizhik and saxophonist / clarinetist Alexey Zubov a record he released as Jam Session Moscow. more>>  Sergey Kuryokhin was with them in Moscow and apparently spent quite some time with his German and American colleagues in Leningrad, too. Hans Kumpf’s pictures show him and Fischer playing four hands on the piano, perhaps at the sound studio of the Musorgsky Musical Collage. The meeting must have been important to both: the pictures also show a studio engineer sitting at a table loaded with technical equipment. A forest of cables connects tape recorders and amplifiers. Several microphones are picking up the sound from the piano, the front part of which is uncovered, revealing the piano hammers.
John Fischer and Sergey Kuryokhin
John Fischer and Sergey Kuryokhin
Although it is not clear what happened to the tapes from this specific recording, the importance of recording such improvisations was evident. Some weeks earlier, on 2 April, Sergey Kuryokhin had recorded his first solo LP, published in late 1981 by London-based Leo Records under the title “The Ways of Freedom”. Hans Kumpf delivered the cover photo taken in June 1981, originally a double portrait with John Fischer and Sergey Kurykohin.
John Fischer and Sergey Kuryokhin
Given his experience in keeping his calm at the customs, Kumpf might also have been involved in the process of smuggling the tapes to London. The text on the back of the LP cover states “Leo Records is grateful to all those people who had the courage to preserve and deliver the tape” and expresses “extra thanks to Hans Kumpf and Seva L.” This record made Kuryokhin famous overnight – "Mr. Kuryokhin is a true discovery" (Jon Pareles, The New York Times, 1983). In February 1983, a long interview by Alexander Kan with Sergey Kuryokhin was published in “Cadence“. more>>
 Kumpf, “My trips to Russia”, p. 71
 “Jam Session Leningrad” feat. Hans Kumpf (clarinet), Anatolij Vapirow (clarinet, bass-clarinet, alto-saxophone, tenor-saxophone), Sergej Kurjochin (piano), Alexander Alexandrow (bassoon). Murr: AKM-Records 1981.
 Kan, Jazz, p. 111
 Kumpf, “My trips to Russia”, p. 77
 Kevin Whitehead. “Hans Kumpf and Anatolij Vapirow Trio, Jam Session Leningrad, Fusion 8004.” In Cadence – The American Review of Jazz & Blues, Vol.8 No5, May 1982.
 Kumpf “Enfant terrible“ und Superstar.has an account of the recording.
 Kumpf, “My trips to Russia”, p 77
 Ibid. P. 78
 Jam Session Moscow, feat. Hans Kumpf, John Fischer, Leonid Chizhik, Alexey Zubov. AKM 005, 1981
 Sergey Kuryokhin “The Ways of Freedom”, London: Leo Records, 1981. The day of the recording is indicated on the record jacket. In 2001 Leo Records reissued the music as a single CD with a different cover picture.
 Pareles, Jon. The Pop Life. The New York Times, 5 January 1983
 Kan, Alexander. “Sergey Kuryokhin Interview. Taken by Alexander Kan.” Translated from the Russian by Felicity Cave. In Cadence. The American Review of Jazz & Blues, Vol.9 No.2, February 1983, pp. 10-14, 24.
According to Alexander Kan, it was his first interview with Sergey Kuryokhin. Cadence dates it to December 1981 while Kan dates it to November 1982. Kan, Kuryokhin, p. 44, see footnote below.
Russian names: Анатолий Вапиров, Сергей Курёхин, Алекснадр Александров, Владимир Волков, Леонид Чижик, Алексей Зубов, ДК Кирова, ДК Ленсовета, Клуб современной музыки
Last updated 10 June 2019