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A digital Jazz Day

Evilena Protektore

Celebrating the International Jazz Day during the pandemic

Evilena Protektore

The last almost two years of Latvian jazz have been quite traumatic for musicians and the audience; the pandemic and all the restrictions were to blame, of course. The moment the world stopped, jazz musicians had lost a lot of things that were vital to maintaining their professional life – no concerts could be played, and, which is the most terrible, jam sessions became impossible to arrange, and that hit the hardest because being together in music is a crucial part of being a jazz musician. The first moment of shock led to some solo concerts online, but main Latvian events, such as “Rīgas Ritmi” and “Saulkrasti Jazz” festivals, “Riga Jazz Stage” competition were simply canceled. Unfortunately, the celebration of International Jazz Day 2020 also had to be canceled. And I must say that many different events were planned – several workshops, concerts, jam sessions, and various guest artists from abroad. But since the country was on lockdown, we, the “Wise Music Society” team, have decided to postpone the events until next year.

It is sad to note that the situation in 2021 wasn’t much better – the year had begun with a curfew on weekends, and a state of emergency in the country, the end date of this madness was constantly pushed forward. Soon it became clear that it would not be possible to organize anything outside the digital realm, so we decided to go with the flow and started brainstorming. The results of our creative outpour turned out pretty grand – we had planned both entertainment and education since it has always been a crucial part of the international celebration. UNESCO has stated this, but we completely agree with this direction – constantly learning new things and developing your musical skills is in jazz musicians’ blood. It is also important to mention that all the events that took place during our online session are still available, so this short article will also serve as an invitation to you, our dear readers, to join us even today, a while after the celebration had already passed! You have the chance to enjoy several workshops and concerts, so are you ready to take a look at what International Jazz Day Latvia has to offer?

Take a look at a concert at Latvian National Library – Krists Saržants and a chamber orchestra, “Then And Now”.

Krists Saržants is a Latvian contemporary and crossover music composer and pianist. Performing in Latvia, Estonia, Denmark, the USA, and other countries, Krists has collaborated with many renowned musicians such as Kenneth Dahl Knudsen, Peter Hertmans, Yacine Boularés, and many musicians from the Latvian National Symphony orchestra, Latvian Radio big band, and Latvian National opera. The composer’s recordings were presented in the largest jazz fair in Europe, «Jazzahead! 2017», and included in the official compilation album «Jazz in Latvia 2018» and «Jazz in Latvia 2020». In 2019 Saržants was invited to open the TEDxRiga conference at the Latvian National library’s «Ziedonis hall». In the sold-out event, Krists, with his quintet, shared the stage with piano builder David Klavins, composers Platons Buravickis and Anna Ķirse, movie director Andris Gauja and others.

In 2020 he released his debut album «Then and Now», which in 2021 was nominated for the Latvian annual music record award «Zelta Mikrofons». With his composition «Presence», Krists was one of the semi-finalists at the «Big Band Compositions by Young Baltic Composers» competition, and another composition from the album «The Gopher Protocol» was chosen as one of the 11 winners at the international composition competition in Denmark «Fresh From The Press» — the composition was performed at the laureate concert, arranged by the renowned Danish composer and bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen and Italian guitarist Laura Veltri.

«A concert recording: Krists Saržants «Then and Now» with chamber orchestra / live at the National Library of Latvia» is a live video recording from Saržants’ debut album «Then and Now» presentation concert at the Latvian National Library on September 23, 2020. In this concert recording, you’ll hear Krists’ original compositions from the album in a never before heard line-up. Chamber orchestra, conducted by Artūrs Gailis, excellent musicians in Krists’ sextet — Evilena Protektore, Dāvis Jurka, Kaspars Vizulis, Toms Poišs, Artis Orubs, as well as soloists, singer Ieva Kerēvica and the Latvian National opera soloist Laura Grecka.

Another concert you can definitely enjoy is a performance by «Dream Teller» from “M/Darbnica”.

«Dream Teller» is a meeting point for young Latvian composers and performers where they unite to create music that explores themes of dreams, the subconscious, and the undiscovered within your own self. Their music draws inspiration from life experience, long conversations, travels, and quiet reflection, merging classical, jazz, and indie music. The band consists of vocalist Kristīne Liede, pianist Edgars Cīrulis and double bassist Jānis Rubiks, all three of them also being composers and composition authors.

Our educational part this year was provided by five guest artists from all over the world – Denmark, Brazil, Russia and USA. The topics of the workshops were very different, so that every person would be able to find something he was interested in and could use to improve his skills. This year the artists gave workshops on:

Soren Moller (Denmark, composer, pianist): Express yourself: How to pursue and fulfill your dreams in music.

Sasha Mashin (Russia, drummer, composer): How to get better as a musician by improving just one skill? What is the most important skill for musicians?

Diego Beirao (Brazil, guitarist, educator): Understanding samba as a genre.

Nicole Zuraitis (USA, “Grammy” nominated singer, songwriter, pianist): Songwriting course for all levels and skill sets.

Jason Heath (USA, double bassist, host of Contrabass Conversations, a podcast devoted to exploring music and ideas associated with the double bass): The Power of Storytelling: What I’ve Learned Interviewing 800 Musicians.

The recordings of all workshops are available at the “International Jazz Day Latvia” official Facebook page. “Wise Music Society” team is especially grateful to the State Culture Capital Foundation for the support and the opportunity to adjust the project to modern reality.