George (Georgy) Garanian, Pioneer of Russian Jazz

George (Georgy) Garanian, Pioneer of Russian Jazz

“Garanian was a saxophonist, composer, arranger and a director who was greatly skilled in all these professions. He is without a doubt one of the most important personas of contemporary Russian jazz.” — Yuri Saulsky, early Russian jazz artist

Who he was

George Garanian was a jazz artist who led the post-World War II movement in the Soviet Union of the musical form. As both an artist and conductor, he helped establish the Russian jazz scene.

He was born in Moscow and lived in Russia his whole life. Studying the saxophone, he constantly worked on improving his ability to play, eventually getting noticed, which led to invitations to play domestically and abroad; he was featured as a jazz artist from the Soviet Union on Voice of America. Garanian was involved in the first years of Melodia, the Soviet Union’s only record label, and he conducted the Melodia Big Band, a jazz ensemble. 

For a time, his talents led him far away from Moscow to the southern Russian city of Krasnodar. There, he conducted the city’s big band, making it the most successful in the whole country. He eventually moved back to his hometown.

Garanian was nominated for a Grammy Award after collaborating with the Oregon Band, a United States-based jazz group. He was also awarded the highest prize in the Soviet Union for art, the title of “People’s Artist.” 

Interesting fact

Before Garanian became a renowned jazz musician, he was enrolled in the Moscow Technological Institute aiming to become an engineer. 

Learn more about him

All About Jazz: George Garanian