Jazz may be an American-born genre, but just as is happening with rock-and-roll, the Soviet Union has embraced it, absorbed it and come up with an avant-garde version that is distinct and definitely not American.
The sound the Moscow group Trio-O -- Alexander Alexandrov, Arcady Kirichenko and Sergei Letov -- produces is hypnotic. French horns and winds played in low, calming tones as Kirichenko moans and chants in a non-language; trumpets taken to jarring high notes as the double bass kicks in, almost like an oncoming train. It's moody and mysterious. An insight into the pre-perestroika Moscow underground art scene. It is now being heard for the first time outside the Soviet Union.
"Before perestroika, we had no chance to go abroad or play very much in Moscow," says Alexandrov. "But now we do the Soviet TV program 'Look' -- one of the more popular TV programs -- and we work in the theaters and play in other countries."
The Soviet jazz culture, he says, grew up on American jazz standards, and therefore, for a while, it was almost a mirror.
"We made a copy of our favorite musicians and compositions," he says, "but now it is time to begin new ideas of Russian musicians."
Trio-O (pronounced Oh! Oh! Oh!) is performing with sister Soviet avant-garde group Leningrad Duo. Where Trio-O is unearthly and moody, the duo is radical and joyous. Trumpeter Vyacheslov Gayvoronsky's merry solo ramblings are accompanied by Vladimir Volkov's equally jolly bass.
Trio-O and Leningrad Duo are making their Washington debut Saturday night at 8 at the District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. Tickets are $7 and available at the door. For information, call 986-5932.