Friday, May 02, 2003


The ex-men (and a few women) from the former Eastern bloc return to the Barbican Centre in London for a cutting edge blend of ethnic and urban music from 23-31 May 2003. Rather bizarrely flagged as a 'summer season', the musical cultures on view extend between Czech electronica, Polish art jazz, Russian ska, Tuvan throat singing, Bulgarian classical folk, and more besides. The highlights for me are likely to be the wildly eclectic contemporary soundtrack to Vsevolod Pudovkin's 1928 silent film masterpiece 'Storm Over Asia', savagely cut by Soviet censors; the Koutev Ensemble (a choir) with traditional Kaval flute player Theodosii Spassov; and the Anatoly Vapirov Quintet -- a new, experimental pan-Eastern European jazz project. The latter features the mercurial talents of the Russian saxophonist who lends his name to the band; and dark, brooding, bloody trumpet-playing from ECM's Tomasz Stanko, accompanied by piano, bass and drums. These events run on 26 May, 29 May and 30 May (St Luke's) respectively. The X-Bloc Reunion series will also hopefully give a fresh publicity boost for the wonderful Leo Records, who kept Eastern contemporary jazz, classical and experimental music alive to wider audiences throughout years of suppression and / or marginalisation.

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