«Rīgas Ritmi 2021» — «Jersika Records Stage»
A special spot in «Rīgas Ritmi» festival — a stage by «Jersika Records» label with its artists and jazz movies
Despite the pandemic and all the limitations we’ve been living with during the last year, this summer has brought us some much-needed joy — many jazz-related events took place. Since the beginning of June, Latvian artists were officially allowed to play concerts and organizers to do their thing; everyone was happy and, in a way, even tried to make up for the lost time. The listeners were also desperate for some cultural socialization. Watching concerts online is a thing, of course, it’s a safe way to enjoy live music without having to get out of the house, but it will never replace a live show, where the energy exchange happens. Enjoying music and playing together is a precious experience because people are social creatures and need to be together. So it’s not a surprise that the moment the government says «You can go and meet other people», the terraces and outside stages were momentarily filled with guests, and the excitement only grew because the end of July traditionally means the most prominent jazz event that Riga has been experiencing for the last decade or so — «Rīgas Ritmi» festival!
This year the «Rīgas Ritmi» festival went on for four days with concerts in different parts of town and with artists from all over the world. «VEF Kultūras pils» concert hall has hosted.
A global music supergroup «BOKANTÉ» and a talented saxophonist, singer, arranger, and composer Antonio Lizana and his band; «Mūzikas Nams «Daile» had shown by two Latvian ensembles — «RIGAJAZZ Allstars feat. Viktors Ritovs», Paula Saija and «Kristaps Vanadziņš trio» with friends and Ieva Kerēvica, and also an ensemble from our neighboring Lithuania — «Shinkarenko Jazz 4N»; «M/Darbnīca» held even more concerts, five to be precise, by Rūdolfs Macats and his quintet, «Toms Mikāls trio», «Gatis Breijers sextet», «Tuomo Uusitalo trio» and «Ivars Arutjunjans quartet», end every evening resulted in a huge jam session on the terrace that every single musician could participate in.
But our «JAZZin» team had spent the whole two days at another spot of the festival — a venue that is new to «Rīgas Ritmi» — the «NOASS» art center. Of course, one huge reason for that was that our colleague, the co-founder of this magazine, Aleksandra Line, and her project «klausies» performed there, but also because we were immensely curious as to what our local label «Jersika Records», that loves jazz music so much, had prepared for the festival!
Please, enjoy a short photo report from the «Jersika Records» stage in the «NOASS» arts center!
The concerts at the «Jersika Records» stage took place on the 2nd and 3rd of July. Both days hosted the shows by artists that earlier this year had presented their recent recordings under the label — a spoken word and improvised jazz project «klausies», «Kristaps Vanadziņš trio», Jānis Ruņģis and a duet of Arvydas Kazlauskas and Liudas Mockūnas. Also, the stage hosted artists that are planning to release their albums later this year, also under the «Jersika Records» label.
On July 2nd we could hear performances by «Vyšņiauskas / Čudars / Poišs / Arutyunyan» «klausies» and «Kristaps Vanadziņš trio».
The first day of performances had gone off to a good start with the concert by «Vyšņiauskas / Čudars / Poišs / Arutyunyan» — a quartet that consists of three Latvian musicians and one Lithuanian (although he lives in both countries). The newly formed ensemble led by a Lithuanian trumpetists Dominykas Vyšniauskas has some famous and talented Latvian jazz musicians in it — a guitarist and composer Matīss Čudars, double bassist Toms Poišs, and a drummer Ivars Arutyunyan. The concert mainly graced the listeners with some melodic jazz compositions, some composed by Matīss Čudars; to those, who are familiar with a previous «Jersika Records» release my Čudars, Arutyunyan and their colleague Kārlis Auziņš, this concert probably seemed contrasting to the previous release, that was more free jazz than the gentle vibe played at «NOASS».
Project «klausies» performed contemporary jazz tunes with poetry in three languages. The ensemble presents an enticing example of interaction between improvised music and artistic text. Aleksandra Line, the project founder (and coincidentally the co-founder of this very magazine) and a poet, together with her friends Edgars Cīrulis on the piano and Kaspars Vizulis on guitar, performed some compositions from a recent release «9», and also some pieces from a new program «ne/satiktie» (non/met). It was interesting to listen to the part from a recent release because I was intrigued by how the tunes recorded with Albert Reinholdt østergaard on double bass will sound without bass, but with a guitar by Vizulis instead. Even more fascinating was the newest addition to the project — a contemporary dancer Nauris Miķelis Goba, who appeared suddenly and performed an improvised dance routine on stage, off stage, basically — wherever he could get access to.
«Kristaps Vanadziņš trio» performed a program, «The Love Garden Has Overgrown», which has been presented to a broader audience in «Mūzikas Nams Daile» only a week or so before the festival. Along with the music, the listeners had a chance to enjoy a «making off» movie by Theo Poncet, Latvian based French director, that was filmed in Ventspils, where the album has been recorded, and in Liepāja, where the trio performed a special concert and received very positive reviews.
3rd of July has hosted a couple more artists and ensembles that the listeners can also enjoy in the vinyl format, because once again, these artists either already have a release on Latvia’s most famous jazz label «Jersika Records», or are having one really soon.
The first artist to take the stage that day is considered one of the brightest Latvian jazz and contemporary improvisers — Jānis Ruņģis. He had played music from his recent release «Yggdrasil», where he explores the possibilities of different instruments — a church organ, various guitars, «Fender Rhodes» piano, «Wurlitzer» electric organ, harpsichord, and multiple guitar effect pedals and loops. Unfortunately «Noass» art center doesn’t have a church organ, and frankly, it would be pretty tricky to transport one there, but we did enjoy the sound of a harpsichord!
Liudas Mockūnas and Arvydas Kazlauskas are a duo that has also released an album under the «Jersika Records» label pretty recently. Two Lithuanian saxophonists’ music has been recorded in Jelgava district’s Drabiņi swamp’s amphitheater «Sailgrieži». Once again, the artists proved that a saxophone is a multifaceted instrument and can create truly unique sounds when in the right hands. Both musicians’ mastery has left the listeners speechless and in awe, but the music created a sort of a trans or meditative state.
The concert has concluded with a concert by a powerful performance from an ensemble that has yet to release their recording under «Jersika Records», but rumor has it that a collaboration is in the works and soon we will be able to enjoy some fine groovy music! Miķelis Dzenuška and his project «Uzvaras Bulvāris» have been born as a protest to the restrictions due to the pandemic when it was practically impossible to gather together to make music nor in the educational facilities, neither in a professional capacity. The project’s leader Miķelis has been organizing underground rehearsals from the beginning of this year, it began with only two people practicing in his apartment, but soon enough, the number grew to seven people. The program presented to the listeners had some compositions from Miķelis’s debut album «Pritonā» (In the joint) and also some new compositions that are to be included in the recording that will be released on «Jersika Records» in the future.
Apart from the music, «Jersika Records» has also had a few video showings presented to the guests. These materials were created as illustrations of the recording process for the released albums (the mentioned above «The Love Garden Has Overgrown») and to document, preserve, and conserve Latvian jazz history. In addition, a Latvian based french director Theo Poncet has collaborated with a local cinematographer Zigmārs Zilgalvis to create a movie «Eve and the maze», that was inspired by Auziņš/Čudars/Arutyunyan release «The Maze». Another work presented at the festival was «Saruna pēc nedaudz gadiem» (Conversation after a few years) («Prizma studio», 1980) and a documentary «Pie klavierēm Džeks Michalicky. Pirmais zināmais Latvijas džeza pianists» (Jack Michalisky at the piano. Latvian first well-known jazz pianist).
Overall, «Jersika Records» has created a fantastic atmosphere at the «NOASS» arts center, both days were exciting, thrilling, and even educational! I am excited that Latvia has so many amazing musicians and a label that can bring such joy to all music lovers in our country.