UNZIPPED SOULS: A Jazz Journey through the Soviet Union by William Minor

UNZIPPED SOULS: A Jazz Journey through the Soviet Union

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Minor (Humanities/Monterey Peninsula College) combines an unusual set of skills to great advantage in his first book--a knowledge of Russian literature, a background in visual art, and a career as a jazz critic and musician. They've been playing jazz in Russia almost as long as they have in the US, a fact that has been amply documented by jazz historian Frederick Start, a subsidiary character in Minor's book. But what that jazz sounded like with the advent of glasnost was a question that Minor began pondering after hearing some recordings of new Soviet artists. The result, catalogued quite amusingly in this book, was ""a nine-thousand-kilometer, six-republic, nine-city, two-major-festivals jazz journey through the former Soviet Union."" Minor and his wife, Betty, a woman of apparently infinite patience, struck out on their own, away from the package tours and tourists, attending festivals in Moscow and Riga, and interviewing musicians and critics all over the place. The portrait of Soviet jazz that emerges is both heartening and depressing. On the positive side, there are some major talents waiting to be exposed to a wider (i.e., Western) audience. On the negative side, there are shortages of so many basic necessities for making music--reeds for sax players, mouthpieces for brass players--and so many other more basic problems (like huge distances separating musicians from one another) that the promise may go unfulfilled in spite of the hard-won freedoms of the new era. As record producer Leo Feigin tells Minor, ""You need all this freedom after dinner, not before."" Minor tells his story with gentle humor and a great deal of charm, making the book a pleasant journey for the reader as well.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Temple Univ.