Steve Boulay and Ted Everts share an interest in Soviet culture and language, a love of jazz and a concern for peace.
They took advantage of a little luck and a lot of business sense to parlay two of their interests into an unprecedented venture they hope will affect the third.
By signing the first contract with the Soviet Union to import Russian jazz albums, they hope to have taken a small step toward a valuable cultural exchange between the two superpowers.
When Boulay and Everts begin selling the records in early October, they will become the United States' only authorized importers of Soviet jazz, a musical form that remains an anomaly in its country and a mystery to most American ears.
"Jazz is a universal language. It can break down certain barriers that each society puts up to understanding the other. The more foot-tapping we can do, the better chance we all have of living together," the 25-year-old Everts said.
Their newly formed limited partnership, East Wind Trade Associates, will release five albums by different Soviet artists in October. Each record will reflect the best of several popular styles of Soviet jazz.
Jazz, or dzhaz as it is called in the Soviet Union, has alternately been maligned as bourgeois American decadence or, as is currently the case, been accepted as politically proper.
While an overwhelming popularity of rock music has caused many Soviet jazz artists out of economic necessity to incorporate driving rhythms, as well as electric and electronic instrumentation, into their music, straight-ahead acoustic jazz also remains prevalent.
The artists on East Wind's first releases will be the late Vagif Mustafa-Zadeh, an alternately hard-driving and ticklingly soft straight-ahead pianist; guitarist Alexei Kuznetsov, whose classics and folk tunes include George Gershwin's "Summertime"; the spacy electronic keyboard sound of Igor Brill; the trio of pianist Viacheslav Ganelin, drummer Vladimir Tarasov and reed player Vladimir Checkasin, who perform scattered free jazz; and Arsenal, a saxophone and synthesizer-dominated jazz-rock fusion band.
Boulay, at 24 an international relations major in college and a tax accountant with Arthur Anderson & Co., at first had trouble understanding how the words Soviet and jazz could fit together.
"Jazz represents musical freedom," Boulay said. "I didn't think of that as particularly Russian."
Everts, who is originally from San Francisco, and Boulay, of Rochester, N.Y., met during a trip to the Soviet Union in 1983. When they returned to the United States, Everts introduced Boulay to the music of the Grateful Dead and to some jazz.
By coincidence, Boulay met three members of the Dead while he was working in a Rochester hotel later that year. He mentioned Soviet jazz and the band's response was enthusiastic enough to convince Boulay of the music's potential in the United States.
He contacted Everts, who was working in Cambridge, Mass., and East Wind Trade Associates was born. Its office is a bookshelf and a small wooden table supporting a computer in what should be a dining room of Boulay's home.
"We got this idea of getting Soviet jazz over here, but we didn't know how to go about it," Everts recalled. He contacted the federal Small Business Administration and had an interview there with Gerald A. Friedman, the former owner of a chain of record stores in New York's Greenwich Village.
Friedman agreed to invest at least $6,000 in the venture and friends and relatives lent the duo the remainder of the $25,000 so far invested.
Everts, who has cut down his job at a health-food store to half-time, has done most of the negotiating and has visited the Soviet Union at least three times on business. His primary Soviet contact has been Igor Preferansky, director of a Ministry of Trade subdivision called Sovart.
Preferansky did not return telephone calls to his Washington office. However, Everts described him as "interested but a little skeptical at first because this had never been done before."
The albums' release will come about six weeks before a planned late November meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.