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Jazz Age of Oleg Lundstrem

He painted, played the violin and even studied at the same time at the Polytechnic Institute and the musical college. But the creative fate of Oleg Lundstrem, probably, was determined on that very day, when a 12-year-old boy, carried away by the foxtrot, painted the score for the trio: melody, bass, accompaniment.

To jazz
The great-grandson of a Swedish citizen, the grandson of a Transbaikalian forester, the son of a gymnasium teacher, Oleg Lundstrem was born in Chita, and grew up in Harbin Manchu, where his father went to work as a teacher among Soviet specialists. The family Lundstremov loved music. Both Oleg and his brother Igor played from childhood, which did not prevent to get more than one education. Oleg Lundstrem, after studying at a commercial school, enrolled simultaneously at the Polytechnic Institute and the musical college in violin. Even before graduation, the fate of the future musician was determined.

“Dear Old South”
Starting point for Lundstrem-jazzman. In the thirties of the last century, the fox craze did not even touch him at first. Exactly until the moment when, selecting the records for the party, he did not stumble upon the tune of Duke Ellington.

“Dear old South” so impressed the young musician that he began to play melodies from the records. It was in 1933, and a year later, the 18-year-old Lundstrem created a jazz band. He himself played the piano and violin, and his brother Igor soloed the saxophone. After just two years, the musicians signed the first contract in Shanghai, despite the fact that there were about forty jazz bands in the city at that time.

The “Shanghaiers”, as the jazz orchestra was nicknamed, even though they lived abroad, played with jazz arrangements music and Soviet composers: “Katyusha” by Matthew Blanther, “Song of the Captain” by Isaac Dunaevsky, “Aliens of the City” by Alexander Vertinsky. In Shanghai, Lundstrem got acquainted with Vertinsky himself: the artist came there with concerts.

“King of Jazz Far East”
In the forties, Oleg Lundstrem was on top of popularity. Soon there were already 14 musicians in the orchestra, including improvisers. It was conducted by Lundstrem himself, who in the press was called “the jazz king of the Far East.” At the concert on the occasion of the end of World War II, the orchestra performed a full big band, and Lundstrem wrote his first work, Interlude, and thought about returning to the Soviet Union.

In Moscow and Leningrad, jazz musicians were not welcomed, and the orchestra with its full complement went to Kazan. At first, the big band was scattered across various groups – from the opera theater to cinemas. Musicians gathered together only for one-off concerts. Working at the Kachalov Theater as the head of the musical part, Oleg Lundstrem met his love – actress Galina Zhdanova, with whom she lived all her life.

Jazz did not let go. Musicians recorded on the radio variations on the themes of works of Tatar composers. Played together at every opportunity. One of these concerts, which took place in the Kazan Drama Theater, was noticed in Moscow, and in 1956 the musicians of Lundstrem became a concert orchestra.

Jazz in the Soviet open spaces and outside the USSR
More than 300 cities in different parts of the Soviet Union and abroad traveled the Lundstrem Orchestra. Only at the studio “Melody” musicians recorded 10 records. They became a phenomenon at every jazz festival – in Estonia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and in the 90s in France and the USA.

In the 70s, the musician managed to meet his “godfather from jazz,” Duke Ellington, when an American jazzman came to Moscow. The record that defined the whole creative life, Lundstrem kept all this time.

In the year of the 60th anniversary, the collective was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest continuously existing jazz orchestra, and in 1998 the American Bibliographic Association named Oleg Lundstrem the person of the year.

The Lundstrem Orchestra became the first jazz band to perform in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Of the musicians of the first composition in the team remained only the creator himself. In 2003, Lundstrem handed the baton to George Garanian. Two years later, Oleg Leonidovich was gone, and his jazz sounds to this day.

“As for the credo of our orchestra, it remains the same: we are faithful to jazz, we strive to make jazz an important component of a person’s spiritual life.”
Oleg Lundstrem
We are grateful to Oleg Lundstrem State Chamber Orchestra of Jazz Music for the photo.

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