Jazz Festival Honors Pioneering Record Label
Published: September 3, 2014 (Issue # 1827)
The Leo Feigin Festival, a series of large-scale avant-garde jazz events celebrating Russian-born, U.K.-based producer and long-time BBC Russian Service music presenter Leo Feigin, will open in St. Petersburg this week.
This year’s festival — the third since it was first held — is dedicated to the 35th anniversary of Feigin’s record label, Leo Records, and will tour seven Russian cities.
Launched in February 2012 by Feigin and Moscow-based saxophone player Alexei Kruglov, who leads his own ensemble Krugly Band, the Leo Feigin Festival features both Leo Records artists and those similar in spirit.
“There will be a huge number of musicians taking part, especially in Moscow, and due to the support from the Goethe Institute, we’ll have foreign acts for the first time,” said Feigin via Skype.
According to Feigin, the Moscow part of the festival also will be filmed for a future documentary with director Oksana Matiyevskaya. “We will film as much as possible with her and hopefully something will come out of it,” he said.
Born in Leningrad in 1938, Feigin was forced by the KGB to leave the Soviet Union in 1973 following his meeting with legendary US jazz broadcaster Willis Conover. After a short stint in Israel, he landed in London in 1974, where he started to work at the BBC Russian Service. For more than 25 years he presented a weekly jazz show under his radio name Alexei Leonidov, as well as daily news stories. He formed Leo Records in London in 1979, inspired by a smuggled tape by the Vilnius, Lithuania-based Ganelin Trio.
Since then, the Leo Records label has released hundreds of records by highly innovative artists, including The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor. However, perhaps more importantly, it was Leo Records that introduced to the world both groundbreaking and then internationally obscure Soviet acts such as the Ganelin Trio, Anatoly Vapirov Trio and the late St. Petersburg pianist Sergei Kuryokhin. To protect them from prosecution from the Soviet authorities, Feigin put a notice to his records saying that the musicians “do not bear responsibility for releasing this tape.”
Turning 35 this year, Leo Records continues to release albums, although Feigin admits the hardships of the Internet era.
“It gets harder and harder with every year because the Internet crushes everything. People don’t want to buy compact disks anymore and everybody want music for free,” Feigin said.
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