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From an idea to a historic milestone


Indriķis Veitners

KIKOK 1962 — the first Latvian jazz festival. Reconstruction


Juris Āķis

Introduction

Almost sixty years ago, on December 18th, 1962, Riga gad experienced an event that can probably be named the very first Latvian jazz festival. It was organized by a group of Latvian jazz musicians and friends under the wing of Riga Film Studio; the festival was named «KIKOK» — Kino-komjauniešu klubs/Cinema-Komsomol Youth Club.

This publication is an attempt to reconstruct the sounds of the festival and how it went, using the original recordings of the tunes performed at the event. Even though the recordings of the festival itself are lost, it is still possible to gage some understanding of what it sounded like by using the information and resources we have available nowadays; the understanding of jazz music musicians of that time, the current repertoire, the level of musicianship of Latvian jazz musicians of the sixties can be sketched out by listening to the music that was popular then, and that is what we can actually find in the public sources.

KIKOK

Juris Āķis

The idea of organizing KIKOK was formed in the autumn of 1962 at Riga Film Studio. Essentially it was an informal meeting of a film studio youth club — an event where participants used to watch new movies produced by the studio and then discuss professional and creative questions concerning the material seen. At the end of an event — an afterparty of sorts, with jazz music and dancing. These events became a basis for forming a youth organization under the wing of the Komsomol Youth club (in those times, it was absolutely impossible to partake in any kind of activities outside of the official USSA organization structure — the communist party and Komsomol). This new organization was named «KIKOK» — Kino-komjauniešu klubs/Cinema-Komsomol Youth Club. The main initiators of the club were singer Bruno Oja (1933 — 2002) and a double bassist Juris Āķis, ethnomusicologist Pēteris Pečerskis (1914 — 1974) on the other hand served as an official musical expert since he was a teacher at Latvian Conservatory at the time.

After conducting the first few jam session, an idea to organize a larger event took roots; J. Āķis, together with B. Oja, took the organization into their hands. A. Popov Riga radio factory’s clubhouse on Radiotehnikas str. 41 (now Mūkusalas iela 72b). According to J. Āķis, the initial plan was to organize an event on December 23, so basically on Christmas eve. Still, discussions with the clubhouse administration led to choosing December 18th as the new date. The event’s programs were printed at the «Zvaigzne» print house, where Āķis’s sister used to work at the time. The main force and leader of ideas of the even was B. Oja though, who has had a very charismatic personality and excellent organizational skills.
Twelve musical ensembles can be found in an official event program, with lineups ranging from a trio to a big band. However, the most surprising finding was the archive found at J. Āķis’s, which contained all materials related to the organization of the event and its process — a hand-written performance order, including the names of musicians in each ensemble and the titles of the tunes performed; a photo album with dozens of pictures of the ensembles on stage and the overview of the event itself.

All these materials gathered together provide an opportunity to precisely name the musicians performing and the repertoire one could listen to during the concert. Furthermore, even though the recording made by the radio hadn’t survived, there are original recordings of the tunes performed at the festival, which allows reconstruction of the event, but unfortunately not with the recordings by the musicians from it.

Additional problems had occurred with identifying the compositions performed at the festival since all song titles had been translated into Latvian language and, more often than not, without the authors. Thus, identifying the tunes required a significant amount of research. In the end, the research was successful, and the readers are being presented with the chance to enjoy the audio reconstruction of the first Latvian Jazz festival KIKOK 1962.

Festivals’ reconstruction

1. Ivars Mazurs and «Armatūra» big band

The legendary «Armatūra» big band, led by Ivars Mazurs, was the first to take the stage. The big band is very significant in the historical context since many Latvian jazzmen had their first go at jazz there.

Juris Āķis

The lineup of 1962:
Ivars Mazurs — piano
Isajs Gordons — double bass
Oskars Mihelsons — drums
Linards Bārenis — alto saxophone
Raimonds Raubiško — tenor saxophone
Nikolajs Vēveris — tenor saxophone
Ivars Birkāns — baritone saxophone
Aivars Krūmiņš — trumpet
Gunārs Freidenfelds — trumpet
Juris Kvelde — trombone

Repertoire played at the event:
«Jackson County Jubilee» (C. Basie)
«Miss Missouri» (C. Basie)
unknown.

As we can see, the «Armatūra» big band had played Count Basie’s orchestra’s repertoire solely. «Jackson County Jubilee» and «Miss Missouri» are tunes by a composer and saxophonist Benny Carter; those tunes can be found on Basie’s orchestra’s recording «Kanzas City suite (The Music of Benny Carter)» — Count Basie orch., «Roulette», 1960.

2. RIO/SKO Dixieland

RIO or SKO was a dance orchestra by a student club of Latvian University, a Dixieland ensemble that was one of the most popular dance bands in Riga during the time. During the festival, RIO/SKO performed its most successful style — charleston.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Viktors Blagoveščenskis — guitar
Valdonis Šābels — doublebass
Ilgvars Ikass — clarinet
Ivars Eleksis — drums
Edvīns Reinis — trombone
Māris Briedis — piano
Juris Kante — trumpet

Repertoire played at the event:
«Washington and Lee Swing» (M. Sheafe / C. Robbins / T. Allen)
Dixieland variations (Polish theme?).

The first tune is a very well-known Dixieland composition that can still be heard performed by the same style ensembles worldwide. On the other hand, the second composition is some Polish Dixieland theme that is, unfortunately, impossible to identify. It is worth mentioning that at the time, the influence of jazz from Poland was quite noticeable because of the availability of recordings and magazines from Poland. Even though Poland also had been a socialist state, it nevertheless had a more liberal policy toward jazz music, thus, jazz magazines from Poland (and also the Check republic) were one of the few legitimate sources of information available in Latvia.

Audio: «Washington And Lee Swing», recording «Louie and the Dukes of Dixieland» — «Audio Fidelity», 1960.

3. Teddi Gulbis trio

Pianist Teddi Gulbis was one of the most well-known in Riga at the time. But unfortunately, there’s very little information available on his life and musical activities, mainly because at the end of the sixties, he had moved to Lithuania.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Teddi Gulbis — piano
Juris Āķis — doublebass
Dzintars Beķeris (?) — drums

Repertoire played at the event:
«Ritmisks valsis» (Rhythmical waltz) (T. Gulbis)
«Pa Bastejkalna kāpnītēm» (On the stairs of Bastejkalns) (T. Gulbis)

Unfortunately, both compositions are by T.Gulbis, and thus are unavailable, even though they were pretty popular at the time. «Pa Bastejkalna kāpnītēm» composition by T. Gulbis was named the best during the festival, according to the survey, and had been played on the radio regularly.

4. Uldis Saulītis septet — «Skolotāju nama» orchestra

One of the best club orchestras at the time was the «Skolotāju kluba» orchestra led by Uldis Saulītis; the names of saxophonists Aldis Ermanbriks and Imants Meķis were mentioned in relation to this orchestra.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:

Uldis Saulītis — piano
Imants Grīns — doublebass
Semjons Aronsons — drums
Aldis Ermanbriks — alto saxophone
Imants Meķis — baritone saxophone
Uldis Vainovskis — tenor saxophone
Imants Grīntāls — trumpet

Repertoire played at the event:

«Arvien uz priekšu» (Always forward) (U. Naissoo)
«Džeza korālis» (Jazz Chorale) (Grieve)

Unfortunately, this is also the case where it is impossible to identify the original names of neither the compositions by an Estonian jazz classic jazz composer Uno Naissoo nor the other tune performed at the event.

5. Jazz vocal trio Oja / Lūkina / Polis

Later on in the concert, listeners could hear a truly unique ensemble – a jazz vocal trio with three singers – Bruno Oja, Ieva Lūkina, and Džeks Polis performing a transcription of Hendricks, Lambert, and Ross’s “Sermonette”. It is possible that this ensemble could be the very first Latvian vocal jazz collective. Unfortunately, there is almost no information on the ensemble’s further musical activities. It is known that B. Oja had found his way in the movie industry by becoming an actor, and I. Lūkina became a model in Riga Model House.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:

Bruno Oja — vocal
Džeks Polis — vocal
Ieva Lūkina — vocal
Uldis Saulītis — piano
Semjons Aronsons — drums
Arnis Nierlejs — double bass
Jānis Auziņš — trumpet

Repertoire played at the event:
«Sermonette» (C. Adderley)

«Sermonette» (C. Adderley, J. Hendricks) is a theme by a saxophonist Cannonball Adderley that had been performed by one of the most famous vocal ensembles at the time «Lambert, Hendricks & Ross». The original recording is found on the album «Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross!: «The Hottest New Group In Jazz» — «Columbia», 1960; it is considered one of the best recordings by the ensemble.

6. Ivars Vīgners octet

Ivars Vīgners octet was, in its actuality, an ensemble consisting of Conservatories students. In the festival’s performances, members from this ensemble participated in various ensembles, such as I.Vīgners trio, I.Vīgners quintet, and Juris Kļaviņš trio and quintet.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Ivars Vīgners — piano
Aivars Zītars — double bass
Aivars Krūmiņš — trumpet
Raimonds Raubiško — tenor saxophone
Ivars Birkāns — baritone saxophone
Aldis Ermanbriks — alto saxophone
Juris Kvelde — trombone
Zigurds Rezevskis — drums

Repertoire played at the event:
«Lietutiņš» (Little rain) (R. Ore)
«Vecā pulksteņa dziesma meitenei» (Little clocks song to a girl) («Meitenes dziesma») (Girl’s song) (Ģ. Ramans)
«Bildinājums» (Proposal) (R. Pauls)

The repertoire of this ensemble consists solely of the compositions by Latvian authors; in fact, all three composers, including Ģederts Ramans, are very significant in the context of Latvian jazz history. Moreover, all three pieces have been performed by various ensembles in different arrangements, recorded by Latvian Radio Big Band and Riga Vocal Sextet, and we have the opportunity to listen to them today.

7. Eduards Rožkovs quartet

Eduards Rožkovs quartet is very different from the rest lineup of the festival because the ensemble’s repertoire mainly consists of Russian Romances. However, some noticeable jazz musicians are performing in this event – Viktors Fonarjovs on double bass and vibraphonist Ņisons Beļins, who was also a student of the Conservatory at the time.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Eduards Rožkovs — piano
Viktors Fonarjovs — double bass
Semjons Aronsons — drums
Ņisons Beļins — vibrafons

Repertoire played at the event:
«Одинокая гармонь» («Lonely Harmonic») (Б. Мокроусов / B. Mokrousov)
«Лунной тропой» («Moonlit path») (А. Островский / A. Ostrovsky)
«Где ж ты, мой сад?» («Where are you, my garden?») (В. Соловьёв-Седой / V. Solovyov-Sedoy)

At this point, it is impossible to determine how exactly these compositions sound at the festival; perhaps they were arranged in a jazzy manner, maybe the chosen repertoire was a protest of sorts against political correctness, but the fact is that these compositions have no connection to jazz music whatsoever.

8. Juris Kļava trio

At the time of the event, Juris Kļava was a conservatory student, but his lineup featured some renowned jazz musicians. Unfortunately, the tunes performed at the festival are tough to identify.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Juris Kļava — piano
Dzintars Beķeris — drums
Arnolds Fogelis — double bass

Repertoire played at the event:
«Jautrais brīdis» (Joyful moment) (Litush)
«I’m not Supposed To Be Blues blues» (B. Russel / E. Garner)
Fantāzija «Balzāms» (Fantasy «Balzam») (C. Halens)

It was possible to identify only one composition from the festival’s repertoire clearly — «I’m not Supposed To Be Blues blues»; this composition was performed by Anita O’Day together with a vibraphonist Cal Tjader in the album «Time for two» by «Universal Music group», 1962. As we can see, the recording was released the same year that the festival took place.

9. Ivars Vīgners trio

Similar to the previous ensemble, this one also consisted of the students of the Conservatory.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Ivars Vīgners — piano
Aivars Zītars — double bass
Zigurds Rezevskis — drums

Repertoire played at the event:
«Knīpa» (Bump)
«You’re Just in Love» (I. Berlin)
«Top Hat, White Tie and Tails (I. Berlin)

Even though the identification of the tunes was hindered by the translation of the titles into the Latvian language, two of the three tunes were manageable to name. This leads us to conclude that the ensemble’s main focus was the repertoire of Irving Berlin.
«Top Hat, White Tie and Tails» (I. Berlin). Mels Torme, from the recording «Mel Torme sings Fred Astair» — «Bethlehem», 1956

10. «Metropole» restaurant’s orchestra

Popular at the time «Metropole» restaurants orchestra played swing music at the festival; their performance ended with their most famous number, «Mr. Paganini» — a transcription of the famous Ella Fitzgerald; the composition was performed by a singer Mirdza Cīrule. «Metropole» orchestra was one of the most professional restaurant ensembles, with listeners attending their concerts on a regular basis. The orchestra’s lineup featured musicians such as Antons Kaledo, pianist Egons Simsons, drummer Gunārs Mežnieks, and others. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find detailed information on M. Cīrule, even though she has been one of the most professional singers in the restaurant music segment. Nevertheless, all orchestra musicians remember her performance of the theme «Mr. Paganini» clearly, saying that her vocal part was outstanding.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Gunārs Mežnieks — drums
Mirdza Cīrule — vocals
Antons Kaledo — guitar
Egons Simsons — piano
Vladislavs Šeiķis — acordeon
Ilmārs Kārkliņš — double bass

Repertoire played at the event:
«Veltījums» (Dedication) (Katz)
«Day Dream» (D. Ellington)
«Be Careful, It’s My Heart» (I. Berlin)
«Mr. Paganini (If You Can’t Sing It, You’ll Have to Swing It)» (Sam Coslow)

«Mr. Paganini» was one of the most famous jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing numbers, a very popular tune. Other tunes in the festival program had also been in a similar style.
«Mr. Paganini», recording «Ella in Hollywood» — «Verve», 1961

11. Ivars Birkāns quartet

A flutist, student of the Conservatory at the time, Ivars Birkāns, together with Juris Kvelde on the trombone, Alvils Zariņš on the guitar, Aleksandrs Pasters on double bass, and Haralds Brando on the drums, performed two classical compositions arranged in jazz — «Waltz» by F. Chopin and A. Borodin’s «Prince Igor». This particular performance later became an object of main criticism by the highest members of the party.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Ivars Birkāns — flute
Juris Kvelde — trombone
Alvils Zariņš — guitar
Aleksandrs Pasters — double bass
Haralds Brando — drums

Repertoire played at the event:
Waltz (F. Chopin)
«Prince Igor» («Stranger in Paradise») (A. Borodin)

Jazz musicians have often used classical music, A. Borodin’s «Prince Igor» is only one example of that. A theme titled «Stranger in Paradise» was recorded in 1961 by a saxophonist Harold Floyd «Tina» Brooks, recording — «The Waiting game» by «Blue Note», 1961.

12. Jurs Kļava quintet

Another ensemble consisting of the Conservatories students but in a bigger lineup.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Juris Kļava — piano
Dzintars Beķeris — drums
Arnolds Fogelis — double bass
Gunārs Freidenfelds — trumpet
Imants Meķis — alto saksofone

Repertoire played at the event:
«Tuki-vuki» (Ch. Parker)
«The Late Late Show» (Vēlāk parādīšu») (M. Berlin)
«Vienna Discussion» (Fr. Gulda)

An exciting and original program, especially the tune by a pianist Friedrich Gulda, performed in a subdued, cool jazz manner. Unfortunately, it was impossible to identify a tune by Charlie Parker, listed as «Tuki Vuki», which was probably some code name for one of Parker’s tunes.

13. Ivars Vīgners quintet

Ivars Vīgners, pianist, a student of the Conservatory at the time, and his quintet had performed in the style of hardbop — a very popular subgenre of jazz music in the USA at the time. We come to this conclusion by seeing tunes by B. Timmons and N. Adderley in the ensemble’s repertoire.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Ivars Vīgners — piano
Aivars Zītars — double bass
Aivars Krūmiņš — trumpet
Raimonds Raubiško — tenor saxophone
Haralds Brando — drums

Repertoire played at the event:
«Branching Out» (N. Adderley)
«Dat Dere» (B. Timmons)
«A Ballad» (G. Mulligan)

«Dat Dere» composition is one of the most well-known in the repertoire of B. Timmons, first recorded in 1960 with the famous at the time «Art Blakey Jazz Messengers» ensemble. «Branching Out», in turn, can be found on the album with the same title, recorded in 1958, where Nate performed together with Jonnie Griffin. Lastly, a tune by Gerry Mulligan — «A Ballad» — can be heard in the «Gerry Mulligan Meets Stan Getz» recording by «Verve, 1957.

14. REO quintet

The only professional jazz orchestra of the time — REO (although officially it was called a light music orchestra) was represented in the festival by the quintet with two trombones played by Pauls Mierlejs and Aldis Amoliņš, performed compositions by Stan Kenton and Vitālijs Dolgovs for a trombone duo.

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Pauls Mierlejs — trombone
Aldis Amoliņš — trombone
Leonīds Zeliksons — piano
Jermolovičs — double bass
Imants Vārpa — drums

Repertoire played at the event:
«Prelude for piano and trombone» (S. Kenton)
«Variations for two trombones» (V. Dolgovs)

This is also the case that demonstrated how musicians followed the popular music trends of the time — the choice of the tune by S. Kenton is proof of how well-informed the musicians were about the development of jazz music in the USA. Even though it was impossible to identify the tunes played at the festival precisely, it gives us an idea of the sound of the band — a composition «Interlude» from the «Kenton in Hi-Fi» (Pete Rugolo, Bob Russel) recording by «Blue Note», 1956, demonstrates this sounding as precise as possible.

Unfortunately, it is still impossible to find the recording of V. Dolgov’s composition. V. Dolgova skaņdarbs pagaidām nav atrasts.

15. Raimonds Pauls trio

The last ensemble to perform at the festival was Raimond Pauls’s trio. The ensemble left a positive impression, the closing act was filled with humor — after performing an original tune, «Pasaka mūzikā» (A fairytale in music) and «Caravan» (J. Tizol), Pauls had turned to the audience, asking what else they wanted the band to play. Someone suggested playing the Latvian lullaby «Aijā žūžu», which the musicians promptly performed in an improvised jazz manner. This exact moment was captured in a photograph.

Also, the same lineup can be heard in a recent release by «Jersika records» — «Raimonds Pauls Trio. The lost Latvian Radio studio sessions 1965/1966».

Juris Āķis

Lineup:
Raimonds Pauls — piano
Aivars Timšs — double bass
Haralds Brando — drums

Repertoire played at the event:
«Pasaka mūzikā» (Fairytale in music) (R. Pauls)
«Caravan» (H. Tizol)
«Aijā žūžū» (Latvian folk song)

Tizol’s «Caravan» had been one of Maestro Raimonds Pauls’s favorite tunes for quite a while. This is why a later recording — in 1980, with Viktors Avdjukēvičs on double bass and Zigurds Rezevskis on drums will be an excellent illustration of the festival’s program.

Conclusion

Juris Āķis

It has become evident how well Latvian jazz musicians were informed about jazz trends in the world at the time. Stylistically the repertoire of the festival is quite extensive — from Dixieland to swing and hardbop, possible «third stream» experiments (I. Birkāns, that played Chopin’s waltz and A. Borodin’s music arranged in jazz) and light music popular at the time in Latvia. Nevertheless, two main directions can be identified clearly — traditional swing and hardbop.

The amount of compositions by foreign composers in the festival’s program is surprising. It is important to remember that during the time of the festival, the number of compositions by foreign authors in relation to local authors had been strictly regulated — the preference had to be given to Soviet and Latvian composers, the allowed number of «foreign» compositions had been relatively small. All in all, if we consider the repertoire performed at the festival (both quality-wise and trend-wise), the event could be regarded as a normal European jazz festival of the time, and the fact that this music was performed in an official capacity in the Soviet Union, is unique and more than surprising.

As mentioned before, the festival had also been recorded, but the recording was lost. I really hope that someday someone will find it somewhere in the archives. If that happens, we will be able to witness a unique example of Latvian jazz.

Significance

Juris Āķis

Unfortunately, the scope of KIKOK and its resonance in society hadn’t been unnoticed by the regime. Jazz was never the most favorable music in Soviet Latvia, especially in the context of the USSR’s political tensions towards the USA, which had reached its highest point in 1962 (the Cuban rocket crisis). In turn, when Nikita Khrushchev had visited the Avangard artist’s exhibition in Central Exhibition Hall «Manege» in December 1962, USSR had begun a broad and systematic campaign against modern music and culture. So it doesn’t really come as a surprise that KIKOK and its concert had received some harsh critics from Latvian Communist parties head August Voss during the Latvian Intelligensia Meeting on April 3, 1963. In the speech given there, both artists and writers, but also KIKOK, were labeled «the apostle of low-valued foreign jazz culture, that propagates the worst examples of said music; and even some I. Birkāns had allowed himself to perform inadmissible arrangements of the works by A. Borodin and F. Chopin». After such critique, KIKOK had discontinued its activities. The word «jazz» had disappeared entirely from the press for a time. It began slowly reappearing in the public space only in 1967, primarily due to the preparation for participation in the famous jazz festival in Tallinn in 1967, but also due to the establishment of Latvian Radio light and a renowned music orchestra in the same year.

The next attempt to organize a jazz festival in Latvia after KIKOK followed only in 1976 when Riga held the event called «Vasaras Ritmi» for the first time. The organizers of the festival were completely different people, and when Riga Jazz Club, established a year before the festival in 1975, became one of the most significant places to host jazz music up until 1991. Although it is worth mentioning that without KIKOK, «Vasaras Ritmi» would have a much harder path in life.

The significance of KIKOK isn’t limited to its historic status as the first jazz festival in Latvia. This even gave a significant impulse to young musicians and jazz music fans of the time in Latvia to continue playing and learning, showing that despite the official negative politics of the government, with ingenuity and energy, it is possible to achieve seemingly impossible things; the festival became a benchmark to following the development of jazz music in Latvia which is proven by the information we have on the following musical activities of the musicians who got to perform at the event.