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Dixieland as icing on the cake: jazz in the «Dream Team 1935» movie

A story about the main challenges of composer Uģis Prauliņš and consultant Indriķis Veitners while working on a musical part of the movie

Aleksandra Line

Before I watched the movie, I had a chance to talk about expectations and emotions of some people who’ve already watched it. Among my acquaintances there were some who thought of it as the greatest achievement of Latvian movie industry, the others didn’t like it at all. Watching it myself, I was surprised from the very beginning: everything happening on the screen was accompanied by very pleasant music on the background. Well, where else could you watch a Latvian production with so great music-related credits? A movie about… professional sports?

I’m not a critic, so will not allow myself to give any marks to the plot, actors and all the rest. IMDb.com summaries the plot as follows: “Geneva, Switzerland 1935. Europe is struggling to be united as one yet the Woodrow-Wilson’s idea of a united Europe by the means of the League of Nations is being enforced. American missionaries since the 1920’s are trying to introduce the Europeans with the new sport called basketball. The first European Championship in basketball is about to take place. The national teams are meeting each other for the first time. Each want the honor of being the first champion. Meanwhile in Latvia, the coach Baumanis is convinced that he can gather the team and take it to Geneva. However on his journey he quickly learns that triumph and defeat are a part of the game. Baumanis faces many difficulties, as well as unexpected help from those closest to him.”

I will only allow myself to mention that the spirit of that time, in my opinion, was depicted very well, tension was raised, and for a couple of times I found myself ironically smiling while recognizing traits of character that are so typical to Latvians within the movie heroes. Striving for victory, teamwork and pride because we can, especially taking into consideration the end of the movie. And, of course, a great music accompaniment: the latest is what we’ve discussed with the composer Uģis Prauliņš and music consultant Indriķis Veitners.

While working with this movie, its budget defined that we couldn’t attract resources grand enough. That movie was one more reminder that we should put more resources into music, to allow more live performances. This time we took a little orchestra and two string instruments to make it sound like a symphonic orchestra. Made it a symphonic winds or symphonic band, just a brass orchestra with a violin and a cello. This was my own challenge — to simulate majesty and create tension with limited finances. Traditions of majesty are already cultivated in Latvia, in his next movie Grauba shows heroic traditions even more.

This music was created about the year 1935, but this music is modern, not an authentic one. The band that later became a dixieland «Dream Team», was playing some simpler tunes as well, improvised, pretending they’re into a situation of that time. Indriķis Veitners is an absolute master who has just written a scientific research on history of jazz, which hasn’t been investigated much until then. One more challenge was being historically accurate, precise, and it’s fortunate that Indriķis was aware we needed to achieve it.

Publicity photo

For me, an impressive victory was Louis Prima’s music synchronization, and an original sound of Benny Goodman’s orchestra to a well-known hit «Sing Sing Sing». To get it licensed, I turned to a London PRS president Guy Fletcher who immediately liked the idea, even though it was his duty to help «Midem» colleagues of old times. He was inspired about the fact that it was a piece with which his musical journey has begun, and he has connected it with EMI who own rights to that tune. This isn’t a case when you simply buy a license on the internet and use it, so I’m very happy for the fact that, as far as I remember, for the first time in Latvian history such a famous jazz composition was synchronised and licensed.

I liked the operative spirit of the movie, the boy’s dream spirit, because this is a story about boys who have just dreamed of girls, however show such victories in sports, heroism, depict almost impossible situations where one can achieve such breakthrough and results. A historically interesting fact is that the composition of Louis Prima has been written in 1936, and Benny Goodman’s orchestra has recorded it only in 1937, we are aware of that, but it seems that this composition is almost a sports anthem, and the spirit of sports and victory is inside there and is truly genuine.


What are your thoughts on this movie?

A good one. I haven’t seen «Namejs», but I think this is the best one that (Aigars) Grauba made until this moment. The wisest. At least quite correct historically.

Your first thoughts upon receiving an offer to join in the movie making?

I was asked to participate by Uģis Prauliņš, because they are old friends with Grauba, and Prauliņš has composed the music for this movie. The story was about the 30ies, and they needed someone to consult with. I haven’t finished my doctor’s thesis by that time, was still working on it. So one eve we went to Jurmala, talked about everything, then met and recorded. It was pretty clear to me what should have been there — for example, a «Rozamunda» cafeteria where a rehearsal space of a Brass orchestra «Riga» was once functioning. So we met, like, twice. Found those pieces, you know how it goes — a producer says, I like this one and don’t like that one. And my task was to offer him something that would correspond.

From Saulkrasti Jazz festival archive

How did the repertoire appear? How did the music selection go?

The biggest problem was with the already filmed material. They have filmed some parts with Intars Busulis and Kārlis Lācis and the others who have just played something, and those pieces didn’t correspond to historical truth of that epoque at all. For example, in the cafeteria, where the team was playing a ball, the musicians played «La Cucaracha», which couldn’t by any means sound there, because this is a Mexican composition that even haven’t reached Europe by that time. Then there was a problem of what to do, because you could see that the drums were playing certain tempo. So we found some compositions that corresponded to the years, and in that certain part of the movie we’ve played «Isle of Capri». When we found the pieces, they needed someone to record them as well.

Tell me about the recording process, please — did it go neat?

There actually are three kinds of music in that movie — original music, music composed by Uģis Prauliņš, mostly recorded by the orchestra, and our dixieland that played old dixie standards. The recording process lasted for one day in Tālis Timrots studio. It was fun: it was known before in which places should the music appear, we had all sheets, knew all notes, they’ve shown us filmed seconds and said — play starting from here and up to there. So we did. Played and felt that it goes smooth, sounds nice, all old friends understand one another, and recorded everything we needed.

Did you have any difficulties with selecting the musicians?

In the beginning I wanted to take another pianist — Gints Apsītis, who has worked in a lot of Latvian cafes and places, Gints is a great stridist but an extremely shy person — he hasn’t got any ambitions at all, and now works at «AT Trade». Calm, intellectual, smart, but I have wanted to invite him to numerous projects, and he always resisted. He plays awesome, feels the music of 30ies, but has called me an evening before and suddenly said he won’t play. So I took Viktors Ritovs instead.

Kārlis Bērziņš

Were you satisfied with your performance recording that music?

We’ve recorded, everyone liked it, everyone was satisfied, and the next time we’ve heard that music was only during the first screening of the movie at «Splendid Palace» — and we were shocked by how great it sounds. It was mastered in a right way — they’ve sent everything to Czech Republic where the mastering processes were made. We’ve proposed to release a CD with it, but they probably weren’t interested in additional expenses. The whole soundtrack is very interesting. It was a very interesting experience for me, and the recording process was inspiring. We’ve spent like 4-5 hours in the studio. At the end they forgot to put us in the credits, for which we were offended. The end was made in a big rush, and I told them, and they put is in the very end. Usually it is said that the musicians that appear on the screen are the ones that played the music, but they’re not, that’s the thing.

Does a music consultant play a big role in the movie?

Being a music consultant is of course a great responsibility. In this movie Grauba was keen on portraying the basketball right. Everything’s authentic there, they throw this ball in a weird way from below because that throw from above wasn’t invented yet. They’ve invited basketball consultants and filmed authentically correct. Why can’t you do the same with music? The mistakes that happened in the beginning are audible to me and I dislike it. But this is an interesting job because you have to be creative: on the one hand, follow the authenticity, on the other, keep in mind that this is an art work, a producer has his vision, and you need a compromise. Probably the most difficult thing was to find that unlucky «Isle of Capri» — the scene was filmed, nothing could be changed, and we needed to get that precision.

Can you imagine that nowadays dixielands could perform during sports games?

I think this is of no importance at all. If we’re talking about sports — everyone is only interested in the game, all the rest is just some embellishment. Alright, that music was trendy in the 20ies. We can discuss the 30ies, because the real dixieland times have gone then, it was a swing era. In Latvia «Bellacord» style music sounded then, a mix of everything. We couldn’t make anything authentic by definition. In any case, we haven’t been there ourselves, in that time, so this is only our subjective version of it. This is a problem with history itself — this is only a version of past, with its interpretations. Music during sports games should be joyous, democratic, energetic, strong. Dixieland — why now? But this all is only some icing on top of a cake, because the game is what actually matters, everyone has come there for it.

Which is your favourite episode of the movie?

The very end. That movie is a nice story, no artificial things that are usual to Latvian movies, good cast – but the end is extraordinarily good. They return with a triumph, and then the subtitles describe the future destiny of everyone. It shows that only a couple of years will pass — and the wave comes, and everyone gets destroyed. It makes us rethink that here they’re a united team, win, are happy, but only a couple of years – and a craziness arrives that won’t save anyone. You could feel it in the audience during the first screening – in the beginning everyone was happy, enjoyed the movie, felt patriotic, and then click! The dots are connected. It brings the movie to a completely different level – from the simple fun it turns to something more.

And which parallel lines can be drawn between sports and music?

In music, sports usually mean showing off the technique which usually isn’t a good thing. This isn’t bad and can be needed from time to time, but the goals of music and arts are completely different, and this is only a tool. Sports in music means playing fast, having fast finger movements, but a lot of people can do that nowadays. The main contradiction is that someone has to win in sports. Does someone win in music? Music is something completely different, music is collaboration. You create something new. This is a contradiction at the very base: if you fight, something is wrong. If your goal is to create something, then you can do that by either playing fast or playing slow. That’s just a tool, that no longer matters.

Kārlis Bērziņš

An information on the movie available on its official website www.dreamteam1935.com


Instrumental ensemble Geneva
Intars Busulis
Kārlis Lācis
Oskars Zemītis
Andris Grunte
Mārtiņš Linde
Latvian National Armed Forces orchestra

The music recorded at the National Armed Forces orchestra studio
Sound engineer – Vilnis Kundrāts
Mints Studio – sound engineer Tālis Timrots
Alfa Studio – sound engineer Aleksandrs Vaicahovskis, music mixed by Tālis Timrots

The music recording featured
Latvian National Armed Forces orchestra

Colonel Lieutenant Dainis Vuškāns
Captain Lieutenant Guntis Kumačevs
Violin – Raimonds Melderis
Cello – Valters Pūce
Voice – Kristīne Prauliņa, Zane Šmite, Jānis Ozoliņš

Clarinet – Indriķis Veitners
Trumpet – Normunds Piesis
Trombone – Oļegs Švembergs
Piano – Viktors Ritovs
Banjo – Bruno Priekulis
Double bass – Norberts Skraucis
Drums – Kaspars Grigalis


Riga French Lyceum choir group
Conductor – Liene Batņa

Music used in the movie
Sing sing sing (Louis Prima) performed by Benny Goodman orchestra
Sonny Boy (Ray Henderson, Buddy Desylva, Lew Brown)
Some of these days (Shelton Brooks)
Moten Swing (Benny Moten)
Isle of Capri (Wilhelm Grosz)
Ain’t she sweet (Milton Ager)
Le Vieux Chalet (Arr. Joseph Bovet)