jazz & blues music blog with news, reviews, concerts & more, with a Canadian focus

October 15, 2005

Oleg Leonidovich Lundstrem Russian Grandfather of Jazz

Written by
cindy mcleod

Oleg Lundrstrem, known as the People’s Artist of Russia, has died in Moscow at the age of 89. He founded his first Big Band in 1934, and maintained a heavy performance schedule for several decades. He was internationally renowned for his extensive repertoire including jazz compositions, symphonic suites and theatre music.

Born in Russia, Lundstrem spent 26 of his early years in China, having moved there as a child with his family when his father gained employment as a teacher. It was here that he first heard Duke Ellington and was inspired to recreate the sound, writing an extensive repertoire by ear. When presented to audiences in Shanghai, the band was immediately embraced and gained immediate recognition and fame. While performing in a resort area in the south of China, Lundstrem began to write jazz arrangements for Russian composer’s works, pushing the band to new heights of success and prompting the press to name him ‘The King of Jazz in the Far East’.

In 1947, the band (all Russian musicians) returned to their homeland, but a year later the Russian government deemed that the people did not need jazz music, disbanding the group and assigning the musicians to opera and concert hall orchestras. It was during this time that Lundstrem entered university, gaining his degrees in composition and symphony conducting. While attending school, he began to write jazz arrangement for Tatar composers, eventually winning over the hearts of the government in a series of successful performances in 1955. The band’s entire repertoire was recorded and released in 1956 by Melodiya Recording Company, spawning decades of travel and visiting over 300 cities in Russia alone. They eventually went on to perform at major jazz festivals throughout Europe, India and the United States.

Lundstrem was a professor at San Marino International Academy of Sciences, and was given special recognition by Unesco for his contribution to world arts.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.