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They were the first to play jazz.

The jazz was presented to the music world by a meeting of two cultures – European and African. At the international wave in the early 20s of the twentieth century, the musical direction broke into the Land of the Soviets. We recall the performers who were the first to play jazz in the USSR.

“The first eccentric orchestra of the jazz band Valentina Parnakh in the RSFSR” debuted on stage in October 1922. It was not just a premiere, but a premiere of a new musical direction. Revolutionary for the music of the time, the team gathered a poet, musician and choreographer who lived in Europe for six years. Parnah heard jazz in a Parisian cafe in 1921 and was shocked by this innovative musical direction. He returned to the Soviet Union with a jazz band. Rehearsed just a month.

On the day of the premiere, future writer and screenwriter Evgeny Gabrilovich, actor and artist Alexander Kostomolotsky, Mechislav Kaprovich and Sergey Tizengizen gathered on the stage of the Central Technical School of Theater Art – the current GITIS. Gabrilovich was sitting at the piano: he was well-chosen by ear. Kostomolotsky played drums, Kaprovich – on a saxophone, Tizengizen – on double bass and foot drum. Anyway, the contrabass players beat off the rhythm with their foot – the musicians decided.

At the first concerts, Valentin Parnach told viewers about the musical direction and the fact that jazz is a combination of traditions from different continents and cultures into one “international fusion”. The practical part of the lecture was taken with enthusiasm. Including Vsevolod Meyerhold, who was not slow to offer Parnakh to assemble jazz bands for his performance. Popular foxtrots and shimmy sounded in the performances of “The Magnanimous Cuckold” and “D.E.” Energetic music came in handy even at the May Day 1923 demonstration. “For the first time, a jazz band participated in state celebrations, which has not happened in the West so far!” The Soviet press sounded.

The works of Franz Liszt, Heinrich Neuhaus and Dmitry Shostakovich harmoniously got along with jazz melodies in the work of Alexander Tsfasman. While still a student at the Moscow Conservatory, which the musician later graduated with a gold medal, he created the first professional jazz band in Moscow, AMA-Jazz. The first performance of the orchestra was held in 1927 at the Artistic Club. The team immediately received an invitation from one of the most fashionable sites at that time – the Hermitage Garden. In the same year, jazz first appeared on Soviet radio. And it was performed by Tsfasman musicians.

“The tired sun gently forgave the sea” sounded in 1937 from a record recorded by the ensemble of Alexander Tsfasman, already called “The Moscow Guys”.

For the first time in the Soviet Union, the well-known tango of the Polish composer Jerzy Petersbursky, “Last Sunday”, was heard in the jazz after the words of the poet Joseph Alvek. Pavel Mikhailov, the soloist of the Tsfasman jazz ensemble, was the first to sing the tender farewell of the sun and the sea. Thanks to musicians, another record from the same disc became a hit for all times – about an unsuccessful date. “So it means tomorrow, in the same place, at the same hour,” the whole country sang along with the jazz ensemble.

“Those who have ever listened to A. Tsfasman’s game will forever remember the art of this virtuoso pianist. His dazzling pianism, combining expression and grace, acted magically on the listener. ”
Alexander Medvedev, musicologist
Although Alexander Tsfasman and engaged in a jazz ensemble, he did not leave the solo program, acted as a pianist and composer. Together with Dmitri Shostakovich, Tsfasman worked on the music for the epic film “Meeting on the Elbe”, and then, at the request of the composer, played his music for the film “Unforgettable 1919th”. He became the author of jazz music, which sounded in the famous play “Under the rustle of your eyelashes” of the Sergei Obraztsov Puppet Theater.

Leopold Teplitsky conducted symphony orchestras during silent film sessions at the St. Petersburg cinemas “Hermitage” and “Lux” while studying at the conservatory. In 1926, the People’s Commissariat sent a young musician to Philadelphia to perform at the International Exhibition. In America, Teplitsky heard symphogas – the music of this trend was performed by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

When Leopold Teplitsky returned to the USSR, he organized the “First Concert Jazz Band” from professional musicians. Classical jazz sounded – the music of Giuseppe Verdi, Charles Gounod. He played jazz bands and works of contemporary American authors – George Gershwin, Irving Berlin. So Leopold Teplitsky was at the forefront of professional Leningrad jazz of the 1930s. Leonid Utesov called him “the first of domestic musicians who showed the jazz game.”

The first performance of jazzmen was held in 1927. The lecture “Jazz bands and music of the future” by musicologist and composer Joseph Schillinger preceded the concert.

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