Pievieno pasākumu

Ievadi savu e-pastu, lai reizi nedēļā saņemtu Latvijas džeza notikumu elektronisko afišu, kā arī vairākas reizes gadā lasītu džeza žurnālu.

Lasīt žurnālu

Apvienība Wise Music Society sāk veidot elektronisko žurnālu par Latvijas (un ne tikai) džeza dzīvi.
Lasi jauno numuru!

Where musicians from across the country gathered to learn


Evilena Protektore

Organizers of the «Ventspils Groove» festival and the international team of educators talk about this year’s successes and challenges.

Gatis Ošenieks

Despite the fact that the most vibrant musical life in Latvia takes place in the capital, this summer jazz enthusiasts had the opportunity to enjoy events outside of Riga. Bright concerts, creative master classes, inspiring camps — all of this being realized and with great success indicates that young people have the desire and passion to develop themselves. They are willing to travel across the entire country to have the opportunity to improve and create new musical connections that, hopefully, will turn into newcomers to the jazz music community. This time, let’s talk about the camp where students from all over the country gathered — «Ventspils Groove 2023»! More precisely — let the teachers and organizers themselves tell what it was like and how it went. In this interview, I asked each of them three questions — about their role and impressions, what was the most challenging for the students, and their advice and recommendations! So, the creative team of the «Ventspils Groove 2023» festival!

Toms Poišs: double bassist, head of the rhythm music and music technology department at Ventspils Music High School

Evilena Protektore

His Role

This is the third year when I, together with other team members — director Jēkabs Macpans and Irita [Kalēja] — planned, searched, and thought about who the performers would be and whom to invite; if we couldn’t find someone we asked Toms Rudzinskis. We planned what concerts would take place, how to put everything together, and where to get the money. I was offered the position of artistic director, but I refused because my duties are mainly related to department matters, though I join in as much as time allows. I also coordinated and helped during the camp. Last year, it felt like everything went very well, so we didn’t want to change things that worked. We had a good team; we tried to repeat the feeling that arises when teachers don’t go to bed at nine in the evening but stay with students jamming until night. It allows students to get to know the teachers better and to create a bond. The bravest students understood and took the opportunity to play with people more experienced than them. Representatives of Latvian secondary schools dominated the list of participants — we had students from Liepāja, Ventspils, Riga, Jelgava, Cēsis, and even from Rezekne!

Challenges

What is challenging for these kids — they are still learning, and they are still afraid to dare to do more. Teachers tried to help them with that — to step out of those frames. Many of them understood that they could do more; now it’s time to put in the daily work.

Recommendations

Books always inspire me, like biographies. I was very inspired by Herbie Hancock’s biography; it was hard to believe that it was a real person’s life. It helps to understand that a musician’s lifestyle is an integral part of his music. It’s important to know the life story and realize that behind every piece of music is a person with his life, that not everything is always straightforward, maybe someone wasn’t immediately appreciated or didn’t find themselves right away, that they started from somewhere. Any jazz legend’s biography is interesting. Miles Davis is a musically great authority for me; I recommend reading about him.

Toms Rudzinskis: saxophonist, composer, educator

Evilena Protektore

His Role

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be in Ventspils this year; I taught last year, and also in that year, Jēkabs [Macpans], since I also brought various people to Latvia, asked me for advice on musicians to invite to «Ventspils Groove.» For this year, I recommended Tarek, Dustin, Matias, Carl, and Niklas. In fact, all these people, except for Matias, are the ones I play with in Berlin. The festival lineup turned out to be quite colorful — Tareks is from Lebanon but has lived in New York and now lives in Berlin; Carl is from Australia; Niklas is from Germany; Dustin is from America, and Matias is from Denmark. There was singer Arta Jēkabsone and trumpeter Kristians Kalva, both fantastic musicians representing the locals. Basically, I helped with contacts; they are amazing, very high-class musicians. It’s great that they are in Ventspils and teaching; I think the students will be inspired for some time!

Kristians Kalva: trumpeter, composer

Evilena Protektore

His Role

I was a teacher for the brass instrument group. Initially, I taught them the knowledge I acquired in the Netherlands, like various methodologies for mastering a brass instrument. Later, we split into individual lessons so I could focus on each one and show their strengths and weaknesses that needed to be worked on. In the last lesson, we focused on jazz improvisation at different levels, and overall, it was a fantastic experience.

Challenges

Initially, creating an atmosphere for them to open up was challenging because they were quite young and timid. In the first class, I already asked them to start preparing questions they wanted to ask me. I tried to explain that I couldn’t get into their heads and couldn’t know precisely what they wanted to know.

Recommendations

Listen to a lot of recordings, watch videos, and know the most important performers who have popularized their instrument. Listen to the pioneers — Louis Armstrong. From bebop — Charlie Parker, J. J. Johnson, Clifford Brown. And also, don’t forget that nowadays there are many important musicians as well — Immanuel Wilkins and Marquis Hill.

Tarek Jamani: pianist, composer

Evilena Protektore

His Role

I am a pianist, and in Ventspils, I taught piano and led an ensemble. I had five students in the piano class, but the combo had a quite large lineup — drums, bass, two saxophones, two vocals, two guitars, and piano. In both master classes and the combo, I focused a lot on rhythms. Despite being a pianist and, of course, talking a lot about piano playing, I always like to pay a lot of attention to rhythm because it is what students in other specialties practice the least. In rhythm sections, a deeper exploration of rhythm is considered their domain. I like to remind all specialties how important rhythm is. In the ensemble, we worked with Brazilian and Cuban rhythms, felt triplets, and performed exercises to understand each instrument’s role in the rhythm context. Each instrument has its role, and magic happens when the right cohesion is achieved. We formed an excellent connection with the students. I am very proud of them, and it was a joy to see the excitement on their faces and witness their progress!

Challenges

The most challenging thing for these kids was something they had never done before — isolating polyrhythm in the «three over two» pattern. Despite «three over two» being the easiest form, not everyone manages to memorize it. It’s quite specific; you need to be able to separate the triplet from the duplet and instantly switch between them but feel them as a unified whole.

Recommendations

Listen to African music more — folk music from Gambia, Senegal, Mali.

Dastins Drews: saxophonist, composer

Evilena Protektore

His Role

I taught a saxophone class and also led a combo. In the master classes, we were initially together in one group, then divided into smaller ones, and in the end, I also met with each student individually. I tried to adapt to the student’s needs — we talked about sound, time conception, and saxophone technique. At some point also about microtonal music, which is what I deal with every day, but not everyone likes it, of course. I demonstrated some ways to play this music. It was quite challenging for them, but it is the same with all music — if you don’t have muscle memory, it takes more time. Playing is 90% about muscle memory — if you want to play and realize your ideas, you need to master your instrument. I also insist that transcription is vitally necessary in the learning process — it helps develop both technique and aural skills. I had a quite large ensemble — three trumpets, two saxophones, a trombone, two vocalists, and a rhythm section — but the repertoire was a ballad written by one of the students for his mother. We worked on thinking about the piece — what is needed to make it sound good? We worked on dynamics, different instrument combinations, and voices.

Challenges

The most challenging was to make them not get stuck in their heads so much — music is closely related to psychology. Each of us needs to find our voice and place, but initially, we need to understand that what we do is valuable. So, when we start to improvise, we need to think about music, the goal, and what we want to say, and then we won’t have time to think about what others think about us. Everything else is just the surface.

Recommendations

Microtonal music is quite a new phenomenon, but I would recommend listening to Philipp Gerschlauer, who has also created his table with finger positions for 600 microtonal sounds.

Matias Fischer: drummer, composer

Evilena Protektore

His Role

I taught drums and led an ensemble, and it was fantastic! In my musical life, I’ve played a lot of polyrhythms and complex meters, and during the masterclasses, I tried to show the students how fun it can be. I tried to do everything possible not to force them to do what they didn’t like, but, in my opinion, they enjoyed it!

Challenges

The most challenging thing for the ensemble students was putting those polyrhythms together and achieving cohesion. We took a piece by Kenneth Dahl Knudsen, where the rhythmic pattern was «four over five,» and the drummer played a constant ride, exploring inversions of this pattern in the piece. It was exciting, but putting it together was a challenge.

Recommendations

I recommend listening to a lot of contemporary rhythmic music, such as Avishai Cohen’s album «Gently Disturbed.» This album opened my eyes to all the possibilities of polyrhythms. I also recommend listening to Swedish bassist Petter Eldh; his art is truly revolutionary!

Carl Morgan: guitarist, composer

Evilena Protektore

His Role

In the masterclasses, I taught guitar and was also the rotating ensemble teacher. Each ensemble had its teacher, but Kristian and I visited everyone. We went to one ensemble for 40 minutes, listened to how they were doing, gave recommendations, and moved on to the next.
During my masterclasses, we started with group lessons attended by all six guitarists, and then we worked individually. We focused a lot on connecting sounds within chord progressions in improvisation. Guitarists often fixate on chord sounds and play everything correctly. Still, there’s always a problem transitioning beautifully to the next chord because there’s a moment to think about moving on to the next measure at the end of each measure.

Challenges

That was also the most challenging — such things need to be trained systematically and slowly, in different tonalities, gradually increasing the tempo.

Recommendations

Absolutely listen to the grandmasters of improvisation — John Coltrane, for example. If you learn just one of his solos, you’ll absorb his way of navigating through chords. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker… We also listened to many guitarist recordings during the classes — Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Scofield…

Niklas Lukassen: bassist, composer, educator

Evilena Protektore

His Role

I taught at the «Ventspils Groove» festival for the second consecutive year and am delighted to return. Usually, foreign educators are invited only once. I enjoyed the camp a lot, and I also enjoy teaching music in my daily life. In the mornings, we had bass lessons where we listened to many recordings discussed music components, textures, and the history of our instruments. I also provided materials for them to take home. Since I studied with Ron Carter, I have many of his methods, as well as some of my own ideas and insights. We talked about the weight of tones, and I tried to explain that playing can be very intuitive. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the direction where the note really wants to go. If you have the fourth degree, it will want to step down to the third — gravity!

I was also the ensemble leader, and we worked a lot on self-confidence. My vision is that a musician shouldn’t think about playing a solo but rather about what they want to play. I gave them the task of playing a storm, the sun, and then doing it together. It was uplifting to see how they found their way together and played the sunlight!

Challenges

The most challenging part was breaking away from the sheet music, making mistakes, and starting to talk and ask questions. These students are afraid of situations where their sheets are taken away and won’t play correctly.

Recommendations

I recommend listening to a lot of diverse music. I gave my students a selection of 60 songs, each representing something different. There are performers like Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke, but also Quincy Jones with the track «Do it – To it!»

Arta Jēkabsone: singer, composer

Evilena Protektore

Her Role

In principle, we continued the tradition started last year. We worked with Liselotte Ostblom and had a very cool tandem. We talked about freedom of the body and technique, and I continued with that. I wanted to talk about the freedom of sound, technical freedom, physical freedom. We lay on the floor and did exercises. Then, this year, I decided to work with the body, do «body mapping,» understand where you have some tension, and try to release it through breathing. There’s a meditation app called «Bloom» where you can create a melody that plays in a loop, giving freedom and helping to relax.
We dealt with the straw technique and various therapeutic exercises. There were also individual lessons — some found it more helpful to focus on storytelling, some on technique. I tried to understand and give them what they wanted. I tried to convey how important it is to keep yourself in shape. There was also a small vocal ensemble; we were like the fifth combo.

Challenges

The most challenging part was dealing with illnesses because everyone had a cold, and sometimes singing was difficult. Also, it is essential to open up to a new environment, not be afraid to experiment and make mistakes, and allow oneself to be.

Recommendations

I recommend reading the book «The Vocal Athlete»; it contains much helpful information!