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.

On my third visit in June 1981 I went both to Leningrad and Moscow.

John Fischer at the Hermitage
June 1981, Leningrad • Photo: Hans Kumpf

On this occasion John Fischer — an American born in Belgium and a well-known representative of the New-York “loft scene” — was also there. He was invited to Leningrad quite independently of me, and he too paid all his own expenses.

Lensoviet Palace of Culture, home to the Contemporary Music Club
June 1981, Leningrad • Photo: Hans Kumpf

In accordance with tradition the concert was again given in the Lensoveta Hall. On this occasion the Contemporary Music Club was less afraid of unpleasantness with the authorities over the presence of foreign guests, and the concert had been more advertised so that the hall was packed with an audience of about 200 people. Variety was provided by including improvisations with many different instrumental combinations. 

Sergey Kuryokhin, Anatoly Vapirov and Alexander Alexandrov
Contemporary Music Club at the Lensoviet Palace of Culture, Leningrad, June 1981
Photo: Hans Kumpf

There was perhaps too much emphasis on effect and “show” in many of the pieces, and I often missed the atmosphere of overall relaxation and interior repose. Our Soviet partners were of course Vapirov, Kuryokhin, Alexandrov, Volkov and Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (flugelhorn), Alexander Kondrashkin (drums) and Vladislav Makarov (cello), who came especially from Smolensk.

John Fischer and Sergey Kuryokhin
June 1981, Leningrad • Photo: Hans Kumpf

Our next encounter took place in the more restricted space of the bar of the Palace of Culture. Here there were more opportunities for communication. John Fischer was of course asked many questions about the American scene.

John Fischer and Sergey Kuryokhin
June 1981, Leningrad • Photo: Hans Kumpf