Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Leonid Pereverzev, and What I Owe Him

In 2006, when the pioneer of Russian Jazz musicology, Leonid Pereverzev, passed away at 75, I found myself a steward of a large collection of his jazz writings.
In 2000-2002 we exchanged dozens of e-mails; having discovered the Internet communication, the forefather of all Russian jazz critics and jazz historians turned out to be a consummate computer user and one of the most active readers, and then authors, of Jazz.Ru, the Russian jazz web central which I run as editor since 1998. Since 2001, Leonid started to send me his writings, granting me the right to publish them in a special section of Jazz.Ru site. I think that he grew tired of not being published. In all his life, and he started writing about jazz in the 1950s, none of his works has ever been published as a book!

For the Soviet culture authorities, who could and did decide is somebody was worthy of being published (as all the book publishing in the country was controlled by the government,) he was an unclear personality. A lifelong jazz fan, a pronounced Americanophile, and an author who wrote on such diverse topics as jazz music, concept design, rock music, the education theory, theory of industrial design, seismoacoustics, the history of time-measuring devices, and the Stone Age graphic art, Pereverzev was hard to categorize, impossible to tame, and clearly more intelligent than his critics. The writer who was the first in theorizing about Jazz in Russian language (and went farther than many of his English-speaking counterparts,) was, for the Soviet authorities, not a musicologist, because he had no degree in musicology from an officially-approved higher education institution! Pereverzev published dozens of magazine articles on jazz, LP sleeve notes, he wrote the JAZZ article for the Big Soviet Encyclopedia, and an addendum, titled "From Jazz To Rock," to a noted musicologist's book on jazz; but he was never given a possibility to publish his large theoretical works on jazz as a separate book. So he decided to put his jazz writings online.

Four years after Pereverzev's passing, I still felt that I owed him. I grew up reading his jazz articles and sleeve notes. All that I knew about jazz until I turned 20, I knew because of him.
When the Russian jazz community mourned his passing, his friend and apprentice, Alexey Batashev, probably the widest-known Russian jazz critic, wrote in an obituary that "Cyril Moshkow of Jazz.Ru accumulated most of Pereverzev's jazz writing, and we hope that one day, he would edit it in a posthumous volume, Collected Jazz Works by Leonid Pereverzev."

So, I had no choice. Last year I persuaded the St.Petersburg-based publishing house, Planet of Music (which previously released three of my own non-fiction books,) to let me make sure that a collection of Pereverzev's jazz texts would see light one day.

With great pleasure I announce that today, Leonid's heir, Boris Pereverzev, with whom we were in a pleasant e-mail communication for a while, signed a contract that makes it possible. The book, under working title "An Offering to Duke Ellington, and Other Jazz Texts by Leonid Pereverzev," ("Приношение Эллингтону и другие тексты о джазе") is going to happen later this year. I act as its compiler and editor.

In a couple of days, I will publish here an excerpt from Leonid Pereverzev's book - a few pages that I translated to English, a stunning autobiographical short story, which, I am sure, many of my English-speaking readers will find incredibly fierce and mind-opening.


Anonymous said...

Did Leonid write in English?

Cyril Moshkow said...

To Jake: generally speaking, no. Most of his works were in Russian, as he was addressing the Russian audience. A few of his non-jazz (and non-music) texts were written in English, but their topics are far from jazz music. The one I could think of right now was titled "Impuls methods for calibration of electrodynamic vibrometers."