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Fresh look on jazz music

Aleksandra Line

«City Jazz Riga» big band art director’s creative passion and youth maximalism

Jānis Porietis

«I have a special relationship with «City Jazz» — I began my experience in jazz music there. Kārlis Vanags taught me so much and revealed the whole world to me. I began studying classical music, studied trombone at the music school and wanted to use all the opportunities life gave me» — this is how Kārlis Alfrēds Feldbergs, new artistic director of «City Jazz Riga», Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music jazz department student and Latvian Radio big band musician begins our conversation. So we’ve talked about youth maximalism, a fresh look at traditional jazz, and generations’ challenges and opportunities nowadays.

– I was playing in brass orchestras, participated in the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, and Laura Rozenberga, who is now the first trombone of the Latvian Radio big band, invited me to join the «City Jazz» big band — this opened a completely new world for me where I could use my trombone wisely. Jazz music was something completely fresh for me — it was already too boring in classical music, to be honest. Jazz inspired — I had a great interest in learning to play trombone in a completely different way. It was a fully different motivation to practice my instrument. I have a bachelor’s degree in classical music, and I do not regret that, and now I study jazz music at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music. Classical music was a great basis.

– A cool thing is that Latvia doesn’t have that many trombone players. So if you can play something on the trombone, you have chances to get invited somewhere, so I began to slowly substitute musicians of the Latvian Radio big band. I did sheet reading very well, and the basis was quite easy for me — I was oriented in the genre and style. And there was an opportunity to join the big band as an employee, so Kārlis Vanags saw some potential in me and invited me to become an artistic director. And now we have completely new energy flowing — my youth maximalism hasn’t ended, I haven’t given up on life, and I want to make the «City Jazz» big band my priority and inspire them.

Jānis Porietis

– At the moment, «City Jazz Riga» is actively searching for youngsters up to 16 y.o. who have some knowledge about the instrument, are studying in a music school, or are self-taught. These youngsters have to be ready to begin their steps in jazz music — rhythm group, drums, guitar, double bass, or bass guitar; we also invite pianists, saxophonists, trumpetists, and trombonists, who are a rare find in Latvia, because that is a demanding instrument which takes time to learn. The level of preparation can be quite primitive — one could learn notes, and I’m open to teaching and giving a chance to play in a band.

– Our second group is bigger — there are up to 20 people, and we are creating a concert program with it. In order to have enough motivation in this collective, we organize public concerts where people can join to spend time and get acquainted with jazz music. We are giving them a great chance of live practice — we have people connected to music, young lawyers, medical students, and many others.

– In my opinion, this band is unique in that the more experienced people can inspire and give their knowledge to people who don’t have a great connection with music. Usually, people are motivated by competition — if the other one plays better, you wish to play at least as well. And one shouldn’t take it as a competition — it is just some motivation to practice and improve. And it was just the same for me as well — I began playing when Laura Rozenberga was playing by my side, she gave me some criticism and comments, and I wanted to play the best I could. The main thing is to be open, take criticism nicely and make conclusions, and then grow up quickly.

Jānis Porietis

– Right now, we have a completely new program, and we want to develop it further on, in order to organize nice concerts with a high-quality sound, in order for the musicians to become more experienced, not have that much tension during concerts, and they could share positive emotions. We want to motivate them to get going so that they see some perspective in it. And then, someone would like to become a professional musician, found his own band, and compose music. At the moment, we’re learning swing tradition, choosing well-known tunes, the ones they associate jazz music with.

– In the beginning, the major part of the «City Jazz» big band joined the Latvian Radio big band. Kārlis Vanags, Dāvis Jurka, Māris Jēkabsons, Laura Rozenberga, Jānis Rubiks, Edvīns Ozols, Vilhelms Logins, myself. The level was very high, and at the moment, we’re also trying to keep up. But people have become a little bit lazier — everyone has his own stuff to do, has to pay his bills, and wants to support a better life, so we’re offering to break out of the daily routine and instead of yoga or fitness practice music with live people.

– I like that music a lot — I listen to jazz daily. I can’t just switch the usual radio on — jazz reminds me of the older times when it was dance music. And my motivation is to try and inspire others. Nowadays, many youngsters do drugs, work in casinos, and don’t have any major goals in life — and I want to be proud of what I’ll have achieved.

– In my opinion, Latvian society is quite well-connected to jazz music. Even the most well-known musician Raimonds Pauls began his career by playing jazz. Nowadays, people consider jazz too complicated, so they need to learn — high-quality concerts on the radio and television and many public jazz concerts in collaboration with musicians of other genres. Latvians are a little bit shy until they are ready to open up — and we need to enjoy the process more.

– The ones who want to try out playing at the youth big band are offered the first lesson for free: a person comes with his own instrument, we’ve prepared his part, and he gets acquainted with what jazz music sounds like. And everyone gets to play a solo — whatever the level, the rhythm band plays an accompaniment, and everyone learns how to master his anxiety. We give everyone an opportunity to try jazz out, no matter the level. And before anybody signs up for the first lesson, I invite him to come to a concert as a listener and listen to how we play.