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Until the last jammer

Evilena Protektore

Taking risks and hosting jams simultaneously with the Latvian ethnic «overlords»? Only at «M/Darbnīca»!

Evilena Protektore

Is it possible to extend the festival night? Yes, we’ve all done it when the official part was over, and there were so many positive emotions that we wished the night would never end! When you have the opportunity to be together during the festival, build new musical friendships, create art, and simply enjoy life. That’s what jam sessions are for — like a continuation of the festival without the refined concert hall atmosphere, where the boundary between artists on stage and the audience disappears. For the third consecutive year, participants in «Rīgas Ritmi» (and by that, we mean the audience too) have been fortunate because nothing ends after each festival day. Everyone was invited to «M/Darbnīca» to continue the party! This event was called «JAZZ AFTER JAZZ.» The organizers described it as follows: a concert series, summer jazz celebrations where, after beautiful programs at «Rīgas Ritmi,» this year also at the Song and Dance Festival, everyone is invited not to lose the post-concert excitement and continue the night with a jam session, refreshing drinks, and a pleasant atmosphere. Alternative concerts were also offered for those cases where the festival’s offerings didn’t resonate, or the Song and Dance Festival wasn’t what people wanted to enjoy that evening.

The fantastic singer Liselotte Östblom performed on the first night. Once a star of Sweden’s «Junior Eurovision,» she now collaborates with American jazz legend Gregory Hutchinson. She is a virtuoso vocalist and fearless improviser who eclectically creates a soulful immersion with significant influences from jazz, alternative R&B, and gospel. Since 2017, Liselotte has visited Latvia, performing in Riga and conducting masterclasses in Ventspils and Liepāja. She also won 2nd place in the «Riga Jazz Stage» competition in 2019. On that evening, Liselotte was joined on stage by bassist Toms Poišs and drummer Ivars Arutjunjans, but the artist herself not only sang but also played the piano. In the concert, Östblom performed both her own songs (the audience had the opportunity to hear premieres of some arrangements) and R&B hits, as well as jazz compositions.

On the second night, the audience enjoyed a performance by «SMOOTH SUMMER COMBO,» featuring saxophonist Toms Rudzinskis, pianist Rūdolfs Macats, and bassist Jurijs Natsvlišvili. Jurijs is a special guest for the «M/Darbnīca» team because he confessed that he especially chose Riga as his new home, not Berlin, and, having been here for some time, he said he really likes our capital and its residents.

On the third night, a completely different kind of music and performance was offered — a duo of two DJs, «JAZZY MARKY & NICK USTINOV,» a jazz and funk tandem with an eclectic vinyl selection. The program featured Latvian 70s funk and disco in the Song and Dance Festival atmosphere on the «M/Darbnīca» terrace.

The jazz tandem played an eclectic vinyl selection, starting from 70s Brazilian MPB, 80s Lagos boogie, and 70s Arabic world grooves and ending with disco edits, a modern retrospective of organic house, and Latvian 70s Moog disco.

Regarding the origin of the «Jazz After Jazz» tradition, I talked to the author of the idea and the main lady of «M/Darbnīca» — Maija Moira Mazanova.

Evilena Protektore

«JAZZ AFTER JAZZ» — what is it? It sounds like a festival!

Yes, it’s a little festival. Do you know how it came about? We have always been big fans of «Rīgas Ritmi»; it’s something essential and significant for my personal musical growth, so as soon as we opened up, Māris Briežkalns approached us: «How about having jams here?» I was very happy that he approached us, and I said it was the best thing we could wish for. We have a small jazz venue, so the «Jazz After Jazz» series was born because «Jazz» is «Rīgas Ritmi,» and we are «After Jazz» — exactly the place where you can come, jam after concerts, maybe feel a bit more relaxed because concerts require a serious concert hall, serious listeners, there is some kind of etiquette, but we here are simple. We want the musicians who have the hype from the concert not to go home and sleep but to do something else, and «Jazz After Jazz» is that place.

And how did you decide to continue? You are no longer officially part of «Rīgas Ritmi,» are you?

We decided to continue last year and this year without «Rīgas Ritmi,» but certainly inspired by «Rīgas Ritmi»; this is the third year. «Rīgas Ritmi» is the one that sets an example for us, and we are more local. «Rīgas Ritmi» has more significant opportunities, and there are so many fantastic foreign artists, but we welcome them all here, in the heart, for good, quality jazz! Because there is no other place.

The only thing is that this year everything overlapped with jams at the «Radisson» hotel — «Riga Jazz Lounge.»

But those jams are until eleven. We start our concert at nine so that people can warm up, then we take about an hour’s break, and then all the musicians who have gathered can start. You can still make it if the concert ends at ten or eleven; we are open until the last jammer!

This year also overlapped with the Song and Dance Festival.

The Song and Dance Festival, as they say, is the overlord! They are above everything! But we just followed «Rīgas Ritmi.» It is clear that if so many fantastic musicians come to town, then they must go somewhere afterward. «Radisson» is a fantastic place with a magical view, but it’s only until eleven; jazz life doesn’t end there. I know that in the 60s and 70s, musicians played a gig, mainly for white people, and then they went home to continue the party until three, four, or five in the morning, and everyone danced for their people.

Evilena Protektore

You are quite active this year, too, and also internationally — today, you have Liselotte performing — how nice!

We met at the Swedish Cultural Days here in Latvia a couple of months ago. I asked if she would like to come again, and she replied, of course!

Fantastic! Did you also receive any support for this event? Musicians from abroad are quite an expensive pleasure.

No, everything is on our own.

Wow, how do you manage that?!

I don’t know; maybe we’re just very, very crazy, and we love jazz and improvisation a lot. But yes, it was like that — we didn’t receive support from VKKF. We get a little support from the Riga City Council for jazz jam sessions, but mostly, it’s from ticket sales — from the audience. Of course, there is a huge risk that during the Song and Dance Festival, people choose to attend the festival, which is understandable. I assume that being at the Song and Dance Festival generates an unbelievably huge energy, especially in a national spirit where you have Māra and Līga by your side, and Mārtiņš Brauns’ «Saule, pērkons, Daugava»… I think, officially declaring, that would be the best Latvian anthem! Whenever I hear this song, I want to stand up straight and feel proud! Brauns!


But yes, we also know how to party and be! Because there is a community, and, you know, the first time you come, you belong because we are all simple.