Fri, May 19, 2000 - Page 7 News List

Jazz with an extra dash of class

In Russia the word jazz is almost synonymous with George Garanian, who has been taking Taiwan by storm with a series of concerts featuring a mix of pop and jazz, performed in classical style by the Moscow Pops Orchestra. He and his team will be performing a finale all-jazz show at the National Concert Hall

By Juping Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

When George Garanian led the Moscow Pops Orchestra into a rendition of the Taiwanese tune "Wang-chun-feng" (望春風), he was rewarded with an enthusiastic round of applause. The Armenian Russian music legend knows his fans. And the pops concerts that he conducted this month around the island proved it.

Since May 2, Garanian and his orchestra have been touring Taiwan playing popular Hollywood tunes, such as "My Heart Will Go On," from the movie , and "Madly," originally from John Lennon. Audiences have gone crazy over group hailing from afar, offering standing ovations, pouring backstage after concerts and pestering the conductor and players for autographs.

It's the first time for Garanian and his team in Taiwan and they hope to feature more Taiwan tunes in their repetoire for local audiences, Garanian said. It would be an added delight to their upcoming all-jazz night on the 22nd at the National Concert Hall. Dubbed "The Love of My Life - the Super Jazz Night," it will mark the end of the Russians' Taiwan tour, for which the orchestra scheduled 18 pops concerts.

Jazz lovers will have the opportunity to witness the reputation of Garanian, the first name in Russia to surface when the word jazz is mentioned. A 40-year jazz career has made Garanian a household name in Russia. Besides being a great saxophone player, Garanian is also an experienced composer who has worked with 30 Russian movies, not to mention ballets, concerts and albums.

The energetic composer is humble about his status, though, and tries to deflate any moves to make him an icon. "Don't hang me on the wall," he joked. "I am just the simple George."

Garanian and his 28-member orchestra will be playing mostly American-style jazz, such as the familiar tunes "Sweet Georgian Brown" and "Always," and Garganian will take up the saxophone to play a few solos as well.

Performance notes

WHAT:

Moscow Pops Orchestra (莫斯科大眾管絃團) The Love of My Life The Super Jazz Night (摯愛今生-加值爵色夜)

WHEN:

Monday, 7:30 pm

WHERE:

National Concert Hall (國家音樂廳); 21 Chungshan S. Rd. (中山南路21號)

MISC:

Ticket: NT$400-NT$1500


In the late 1980s when Garanian started the pops orchestra, it played to critical acclaim. And once the Soviet Union collapsed, Hollywood music flooded into Russia and became greatly appreciated by the once closed society. Before then, pop music or jazz music was never treated seriously in Russia and, in fact, had been forbidden for public performances.

But Garanian started playing jazz long before the ban was lifted. Playing in underground venues, the one-time engineer couldn't stop once he started so he made it his new career. Today, he is the only jazz musician that can hold four solo concerts per year at the Boshoi Conservatory Hall. Music critics such as Frederick Starr and John Hammond lauded him as an impeccable genius of jazz music in Russia.

"Jazz is everything to me," Garanian said. "Except my wife."

According to the long time musician, Russia is strong in folk music, and classical music as well, but not in pop or jazz. "Young people of today are so into pop and jazz, and that contributed to the growth of the pop orchestra."

Besides playing regularly in Russia, the Moscow Pops Orchestra has been touring around the world since 1990. They have a new album coming out soon, encompassing Broadway musical pieces, Russian folk and a variety of others styles.

The group's manager, Vlery Kokorev, who has been bringing Russian troupes to Taiwan since 1991, said the pops orchestra is fresh and new cultural import from Russia.

"The local audience used to go see ballet, and they are a lot more educated now," said Kokorev. "They want something more exciting and the pops orchestra is bringing that kind of excitement to them."

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