"I started improvising, and only later found out that I was improvising in the tradition of Keith Jarrett," says jazz pianist Igor Saulsky, who emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1980. "But I was not aware of it. I was just performing for people who were willing to take a risk to listen to it."

At his performance Saturday night at 8 at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville, Saulsky and his audience will risk nothing more than time. The concert, which will feature some of Saulsky's original compositions, will benefit the Marge Freedman Endowment for Living Music, a fund which provides grants to young pianists.

Saulsky, 32, began studying classical piano when he was 5 and later enrolled in the Moscow conservatory where he was "put through the grinder" studying theory and composition in addition to practicing the piano 10 and 12 hours a day. As a teen-ager, he became interested in rock 'n' roll and jazz and began playing with different Soviet rock bands. Later, he began to write rock music and to improvise.

While it was hard at first to adjust to life in America, Saulsky says he enjoys the greater control he has over his life now and the opportunity to venture into music videos, produce records and write for television documentaries.

"I wanted to have much more freedom and to grow more personally," Saulsky says. "Give me a break, I want to do it on my own."