Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Blues with white and black 

Throughout the history of blues and jazz it has been argued whether only African American people have truly enjoyed and played the blues from the bottom of their heart. Although much has been written on the blues in America, today the people behind the stories come from various corners of the world.

For long blues has appeared also in the white man’s culture. There have been tunes of troubled lives at each coast of Atlantic. Estonians share the bitter history of slavery with Afro-Americans, and have been deported out of their homeland as recently as in 1950’s. Those nations have carried through the generations their folklore of the hard working people, and tales about their home rising from the fields of slavery.

According to Joseph Machlis the blues is a native American musical and verse form, with no direct European and African antecedents of which we know. It is a blending of both traditions. The word 'blue' comes from the Elizabethan era and reflects the depression among the black people in America. The songs of the slaves told of their sufferings and privation. Blues music was created mainly by black working class people as the primary artistic expression of this minority culture. Its simple musical structure had much of sensuality with poetic humorous or ironic lyrics. The singer had freedom to express emotion while improvising. According to Harry Shapiro the blues music was about the black and their "strong autobiographical nature, their intense personal passion, chaos and loneliness, executed so vibrantly that it captured the imagination of modern musicians."

On April 6 the blues tour “Rhythm & Blues World Service” begins in Estonia. It has been organized by ensembles Green Bullfrog and Bullfrog Brown who started off with the blues festivals in 2001. Till the end of April various concerts of Estonian blues music will take place in Tartu, Tallinn, Valga and Võru. Among the many groups we should mention the Estonian master of blues Aleksander Müller who appears on April 7 in Tartu City Library where blues related movies are screened with the help of U.S Embassy of Estonia.

The legendary blues singer alias Müller Sass presents his songs only in Estonian language, and has interprated also the works of the famous Estonian poets such as Viivi Luik and Artur Alliksaar. Müller’s texts vary from obscene to melancholic themes. ”Every peasant should stay loyal to his own culture”, says the man of blues. Müller who has a howling and even murmuring singing style claims to be an anarchist. He is even regarded by the Estonian punk generation as the father of their revolution in the Soviet regime. However, Aleksander Müller does not like politics, and prefers to focus on the stories of his own in the world of blues:”Although Estonians are considered the singing nation, I am an individual figure.”

Be it revolution or a silent howling we could find the music trans-national as long as the people share the same values and emotions. It is said that the blues performer plays to rid himself of "the blues". The blues music comes from the personal hardship, and in this context there could be no discrepancy between white and black people.


Bitter than jazz 

In the book “A Study of Jazz” Paul Tanner has found the blues neither an era in the chronological development of jazz, nor a particular style of playing or singing jazz. Although any musician who could show passion through intrumental interpretation or improvise verbally might meet the essentials of the blues artist not everyone has found those characters to the extent we recognize in the jazz music.

In contrast to the masculine discipline of the earlier blues traditions the first blues songs heard by whites were sung by Bessie Smith in the 1920’s. Her music influenced many future blues and jazz stars, including jazz singer Billie Holiday whose records were sold in millions. In blues the melody had been harmonized with West Africans' tonal chords later written down as the “blues scale” where the pitch was sounding midway between the minor and major third, fifth, or seventh tone. The widespread popularity of the blues in the beginning of the 20th century America had a vital influence on subsequent jazz. By the mid-twenties it became common to play instrumental blues, and this was later also met in the music pieces of the jazz artists. In time the approach to blues was considered more focusing on disappointment rather than bitterness; the music became electrified and mixed in new musical directions. However the tales of the blues artists have never been forgotten. Blues lyrics are often intensely personal, but the music itself shares the unhappiness and pain of the many who have not deserved it.

The bluesologist Brian Priestly has written that it was the "initial popularity of jazz which had made possible the recording of blues in the first place, and thus made possible the absorption of blues into both jazz as well as the mainstream of pop music." The themes of the blues lyrics are met in many art forms. Whether we are talking about the Blue Monday or Jazzy Evening the one who has become familiar with blues music knows also how to express the emotions in jazz.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004


Do the children really greet the competitions with merry and joy, or is it just their professional look towards the cameras? In English Laulukarusell means merry-go-round of singers. Since the program “Entel-tentel” in 1968 the children singing contests in the studio of Estonian public TV have been run every year with the involvement of young musicians all over the country. The gig involves children under nine-teen, among who many start off their career as a musician.

The executive producer of the music project Eve Viilup is in charge of finding the young talents of Laulukarusell in four categories. Every year we have an opportunity to meet the new Estonian talents together with Aarne Saluveer and ETV Girls Choir. Although Antti Kammiste, a man with a big smile on his face leads his studio ensemble throughout the contest, we find the choir very attractive behind the artists. And ofcouse, the anchor of the show, internationally known pop star Electra should also be noticed for her glamor every time the cameras are turned on her. People say that Electra looks as if she still wants to go on the stage with her strong make-up and loose clothes enclosing her body. But we listen to the music. Maybe it is pop music, but in collaboration with the band we might be surprised to hear the singers also presenting remarkable jazzy improvisations.

The first groups are made up of younger children from seven to twelve. Not many of them do sing lullaby or talk about their teddybear – there is a passon to interprate music in new dimensions. Today easy rock and classical estrade as the favourite choice of those groups show the influence of the world music on young children. The contest groups which present the work of children between thirteen and fifteen, and sixteen and eighteen, could already be related to the legendary Kaks Takti Ette categories. Although in Laulukarusell the elder singers could not be considered grown-up artists, they manage to show the same skills and mellow sound in their performances of well-known Lennon songs, jazz ballads and Ave Maria as TV program Kaks Takti Ette, where birth has been given to the many of the Estonian music stars.

Recently we could hear Mai Jõgi singing “Lullaby of Birdlands” with an original combination of the music from the children choir, Kirsi Viitmaa presenting Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York” and Anneliis Kits singing “Pay Attention” in jazzy funk. With the improvement of the skills among young children, the fear of the others rises. They are afraid to loose the competition. According to an anonymous instructor of a semi-final in one Estonian county the first year came to her as a shock – she had never seen children being embarrassed in such a scoffing way. The children had tears running down their cheeks, they were running home. “I was there. I am very sad for being dropped out of the final contest, because I did so much hard work on my song. In another moment I found all my work flushed down the toilet bowl,” says Eliise, one of the participants. Probably only the self-confidence, and the hard work with music teachers could turn her luck in the future. On the other hand it seems that the local jury is not regarding one’s personal work and the great polishment on his/hers skills, but find it important to compare the overall qualities between all the children. Moreover, the TV audience will probably vote more in favour of the singers who look most colourful in their appearance. Making oneself attractive is just one required skill for the artist. The competitors must not only gain high qualities in singing, but also prepare for the hard work in the competition.

No one could ever be sure whether the young children are to be found more talented behind the stage. Even after winning the contest the recognition as a musician has yet to come, for instance through the participation in international contests or commercial projects. Siret Kiisla who won Laulukarusell 2004 puts his e-mail address into Postimees internet forum:”I won the contest in 2004. Tomorrow I shall go to Tallinn. Please write me letters, my address is siret95@hot.ee”.

Some parents find the sad moments important for the development of the child. It is claimed that children who have taken part of different competitions since their days in the kindergarten know also how to loose the contests in the world of ambitious people. Each musician seems to have the need for stumbling in front of the stage at least once in his/her life - it shall help the young talents find their path to the right arena.


Monday, April 12, 2004

Jazzkaar - Joyce 

Joyce has created a unique bossa nova style. Her sensual voice that reminds the lounge sound of the sixties Rio could be found on 300 recordings. She combines song writing and vocal skills with great passionable lyrics, which reflect feminist themes and Brazilian nation. On April 23 Joyce brings her jazz-inflected and dance-ready music to Sakala Main Hall.

Joyce, born in Rio de Janeiro had her first songs recorded in 1968 after the apprenticeship with bossa nova legend Vinicius De Moraes. Joyce created her own style through the mix of choro and samba with the touch of jazz. Her songs that were often called hard bossa were accompanied by her guitar play. “Jobim used to say that his best co-writer was his piano. Whenever he put his hands on it, good ideas would flow. I can say exactly the same regarding my guitar,” said Joyce, who combined the sound of string with her remarkable voice creating a fascinating instrument.

In 1977 Joyce went on an international tour with Antonio Carlos Jobim, and then moved to New York. In USA she continued with her Brazilian rhythm sections. According to Joyce she never lost the meaning of what she wanted to do.
After returning from USA she was rediscovered in South America, and recorded her new jazz and bossa music with great success. In 1990’s Joyce joined the dance-music arena, and was creating “drum n’ bossa” music. However, she never got tired of stressing out her skills in bossa ballads, urban night songs and jazz grooves. In 1990’s Joyce also composed sweet background bossa nova, and featured great contemporary jazz artists such as Grammy winning tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and pianist Mulgrew Miller. Besides her contribution to the making of music Joyce issued her collection of essays reflecting the memories of musicians and composers from the seventies.

Most of all Joyce loves Portuguese. She began to make music after graduating from journalism. After putting her ruminations into poems the music became the output of Joyce’s world. “For me, I think Portuguese is the greatest language for music. All Brasilian music has melancholia. That happy sadness that comes also from the Portuguese and European roots.” says Joyce, who makes people not only listen to her music but also imagine the world she has created in the compositions.

As an independent artist Joyce can record a new album every year for different markets and different labels. Joyce is the first female composer of Musica Popular Brasileira. Today, her followers could be found all over the world. As a singer, composer, and guitar player Joyce has the capacity to involve listeners in the musical moments. The country of bossanova can always be proud of Joyce and her remarkable voice that reflects the history of Brazilian music.


Jazzkaar – Manu Dibango 

A man who defines himself Afro-European generates wave upon wave of euphoria in the music halls all over the world. Cameroon’s jazz saxophonist Manu Dibango gives his concert in Sakala Night Stage on April 23.

Emmanuel N'Djoké Dibango was born in Cameroon on December 12, 1933. He studied French in the local “white man’s school”, and was theresafter sent to Marseille in 1949. Manu Dibango achieved skills in mandoline and classical piano before taking up the saxophone around 1954. After finishing his studies in Paris he moved to Brussel where he contributed to the jazz music of various groups.

Manu found Amstrong and Sidney Bechet the emblems of jazz. In 1960, he went to perform his saxophone music in the Brussel night-club Les Anges Noirs. In venue for people of repute from Zaire the western music practised by Manu was not in favour. The man of great talents had an opportunity to find his roots again in African music.
Manu’s first success in Africa was gained together with his new companion Joseph Kabasélé. When the concert tours in his homeland reached the end Manu began his own club business where the orchestras played his own compositions.
In 1973 a huge success was gained in USA. Manu was recognizable for showing the Afro-Americans their new path in jazz music. After the New York fever Atlantic Records bought 150, 000 copies of Manu Dibango’s music. The jazz star was nominated for the Grammy Award for the Best R&B Instrumental Performance.

In 1980 Manu began to record reggae music. The new albums “Ambassaador” and “Gone Clear” featured the Jamaican music of Sly And Robbie. Manu Dibango became famous with his avant-funk movements. On March 14, 1986 the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang awarded Manu with the title “the Medaille des Arts et des Lettres”.

Manu Dibango makes up his music of soul, reggae, spiritual and jazz elements. But he never stops to expand in new directions. Although Manu has not been after perfection and success in his cross-cultural works, it has been said that his contribution to music has had a strong influence on every outstanding contemporary jazz artist of the world.


Jazzkaar - Earth, Wind & Fire Experience 

Al McKay was one of the greatest talents behind the success of Earth Wind & Fire. On April 22 we can see the virtuoso and his companions in Tallinn City Hall.

Pop funk group Earth, Wind & Fire was first led by Maurice White, who started off with his brother Verdine in 1969. In the early 1970’s the group got its first recognition for its funk music, which was mixed with African kalimba. In 1973 guitarist and songwriter Al MacKay joined Earth Wind & Fire. He recorded seven albums with them and made the group famous for its exploration of new territories in the world of music. In 1975 EW&F topped the charts with the release of That's the Way of the World, and in the next five years won several Grammy awards. After leaving the group in 1981 the energy of EWF faded with McKay’s disappearance. Two years later the album Electric Universe was a total failure. EW&F broke up. In 1993 the group came together to play hip-hop, and issued Heritage featuring guest rapper M.C. Hammer. The group Earth Wind & Fire returned to Warner Bros.

In the early 1990’s McKay made a comeback under new name Al McKay All-Stars. The world’s brightest musicians were joined together to tell the new generations the legends of Earth Wind & Fire. The youngest of the group is Claud Woods. He is the vocals of the band with DeVere Duckett and Tim Owens . The fourth man for vocals is Bryan Loren. He has been contributing to the music also on keyboards, and has worked with stars likes Michael Jackson, Barry White and Sting. The lead keyboards are played by Ben Dowling who belongs to UCLA Electronic Music Advisory Board, and has recorded music with Michael Jackson, Madonna and Yes. Hussain Jiffry born in Sri Lanka, plays bass guitar, and has been recognised also for his dedication to the music of Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton, to mention a few. Bruce Conte plays guitar in “all-star” band, and has toured together with Santana and the Rolling Stones. Behind the drums we can find Michael Shapiro who is supported on other percussions by Joey DeLeon. Michael Harris plays trumpet and has worked for Phil Collins, The Jacksons, Little Richard and Lenny Kravitz, to mention a few. Second trumpet player is Enzo Villaparedes from Venezuela who toured and recorded with Joan Sebastian and Franco. Wendell Kelly, whose talents have been noticed by Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Dan Ackroyd and Frank Sinatra plays trombone, and finally Ed Wynn, known from the groups of the 1960’s, Platters and Drifters is appearing in Earth, Wind and Fire with his saxophone music.

Each generation re-discovers Earth, Wind & Fire. Al McKay has started his own project with the mighty orchestra that origins from the same roots as the R&B society of Earth, Wind & Fire. The 21st century Estonians will probably welcome the rhythms of Al McKay the way they were hailed by the masses of the 1970s western world.


Jazzkaar - Don Johnson Big Band  

The huge cult of Finland is presented in Club BonBon on 22nd of April. Don Johnson Big Band never becomes routine in its music. It is a new music phenomenon, and requires no compromise for its success.

The world’s smallest big band with four members was formed in 1997. It is energetic mix of jazz and various related styles from etno to electronic music. Its ingredients such as hip-hop, jazz and metal make the music sound eclectic. We may also find the music containing native ska elements of “humppa” that appear together with the urban tales about what living in Helsinki feels like. One could take a pick of any genre, and listen to the incredible sound and scratching techniques of the so-called multi-instrumentalism.

Don Johnson Big Band was started with the aim to have fun of the musical mixtures. According to the members of the rhythm orchestra they gratify their appetite for pleasure through the powerful live shows. The performances are kept high in its quality through excellent co-ordination in the instrumentarium and sound system. Kari Saarilahti who plays guitars, bass guitar and drums, stays behind the music of the group. Pekka Mikkonen plays flute and saxophone. MC Tommy Lindgren is responsible for the lyrics, which are often presented in rap pieces. Johannes Laiho controls the sampler and the synthesizer as well as the mixer and the sequencer. The artists of the group consider themselves to be "semi-professionals", because they are students who earn their living on the other jobs. However they have found their music recognizable for the various interpretations, and have wondered whether there should be a new category “special music” set up for them in the record stores. In two years the self-produced debut album of DJBB “Support de Microphones” seld about 10,000 copies. Two years later Don Johnson Big Band was nominated for the Emma Awards in five categories. It was announced to be the Best Band with the Best Act. It had released greatest Dance Album, and the Best Album of the year with the Best Song “One MC, One Delay”.

The first concert of Don Johnson Big Band abroad took place in Tallinn in 2001. This year they return to Estonia with new songs but the same attitude to the world of music. “It is a clear indication that commercial success doesn’t require compromise or forcing the music into some easily digested form”, Tommy Lindgren has said about the fans of DJBB.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Conventional signs 

“I am not only waiting for a phone call, but also introducing my ideas to the others. It is silly to claim that Estonia is lacking in these possibilities”, says drummer Tanel Ruben.

Tanel finds the rules for having a success as a musician the same everywhere. One must be good in his technical skills as well as in the establishing of relations with others. In Estonia we have only fifty men competing with each other but in USA there might be half a million of those musicians trying to survive in the fit-test.

Tanel finds his family’s support to his work most important. Since graduating school he has been constantly polishing his skills in music in different corners of Europe. According to him there are enough opportunities for education through practice, but one must make it all possible himself. Differently from pop musicians the jazz interpretators turn into distinguishable figures in a long course of time. Tanel claims that it is hard to find an output when a jazz musician is in his twenties. In Sweden he noticed that mainly middle-aged musicians made up the recognisable jazz groups. The young talents were living from the dole and practising at home.

“Today, we find good musicians in Estonia, but none of them have produced anything outstanding in jazz. They just earn their living as a musician and play the background tunes. As an exception, Jaak Sooäär and Weekend Guitar Trio make no bones about being different from the mainstream. I know what it means – it feels like being a little child. I get excited of the new things, but will soon move on towards another amusement.”, says Tanel.

Tanel believes that much of the jazz music is gained intuitively. Although nothing comes without the pre-knowledge, it is sometimes complicated to put the music down on the paper. Not everything could be formulated in a certain way. For instance, the making of free-jazz could be found more spontaneous, and is not meant to be discovered by the theoretical mind. “If people minded what others say about their improvisation there would be no jazz left in the world. Finally, we all appear to be a bit different, wherefore I find it important to develop the uniqueness in oneself. Actually, if we look around we could easily recognise people who have the need to be a rock star with the best car. They just take over the appearance of the other persons”, says Tanel Ruben. He believes that at least thirty seconds of one’s work should be dedicated to the improvisational theme. Otherwise, we are talking about composition. Improvisation determines jazz in jazz music. If the car wash company named Jazz contains improvisational work it might be honest enough to make a name with that title.

Tanel finds new music always in need, though it might be hard to find an output for it. At first Estonian musicians should perform in the local festivals. There must be some brochures, web comments or some other examples available before trying to make a contact with people abroad. Moreover, the organisers of the Estonian festivals know also the foreign producers. They exchange information, and the agents will probably pay a visit to Estonia as well. “It is very important to maintain the international relations. Right now my music could be found over seven internet music stores of Germany. I made my way there with the help of different international contacts. But it all started here in Estonia with people who know the local market of the targeted countries. Conventional sign is hidden in a hot sauna. Many decisions are made behind a stage with a bottle of vodka. This is common everywhere. It is grim, but true”, says Tanel.

Similarly to the producers, also the artists of the famous labels carry on certain approach to the music. Big companies just want to make money. Tanel claims that nowadays everyone is challenged to establish his own label, wherefore more styles and names are represented by the music industries. He explains that the independent companies do everything to prove their notion in the good music. However, after having the first success in their business the independent companies are often re-owned by bigger industries. All the stores are filled with music albums. But we do not know if people will get interested in those articles.

One should take his music with total seriousness. Tanel is not sure how to find the artists who cut a poor figure in the making of jazz, but he believes that it is noticed easily with the help of the audience – they always recognise the interpretators who do not sound great. “There is time for everything”, says Tanel, who still waits for a sensation in his concerts abroad. According to him some of the performances are just more exotic while others show path to the new contacts. He finds it good to have a performance anywhere. “It is important to be recognised – I find it the meaning of life”, says Tanel Ruben.


Talents - interview with Anneli Kadakas 

What is now more important to you as a jazz musician, theoretical studies or practising? Why?
Today, it is noticeable how much attention do the jazz musicians pay to the qualifying in different theories. Practising has always been high in importance, but it would never take over the values of the theoretical studies. Why? Because practical studies are based on the capital of the theories, and not the other way.

Do you feel sacrificing something of your life to be an active jazz musician?
No, I don’t sacrifice my life for music. My work would suffer from each loss in my life. In fact, I could say that my work in jazz music is switching between active and passive mode.

In the modern world of music, is it possible to cut a poor figure in the making of jazz? Could we draw a line between the “good” and the “bad” interpretation?
Ofcourse, there is poor interpretation occuring also in jazz. But I would be careful when idenifying the “good” and the “bad”. I would rather prefer to say what I do like or not find recognisable. I show my respect towards every musician. Before drawing a line between the artists I shall be much more experienced in music.

It is said that jazz may appear as a style without the recognition of its spirit. What does it mean in Estonia?
Maybe, it will mean playing the standard pieces in a corner of a restaurant. There is the routine appearance, wherefore audience remains passive towards the music. In this case, the spirit is gone.

Who is among your favourites in Estonian jazz music? Why do you find their music outstanding?
I find all the Estonian musicians dealing with jazz recognizable - there is no audience for performances throughout the year. Moreover, Estonia lacks in places for performances, and the jazz education could not be afforded till recently.

In your opinion, what are the most important characteristics of a musician’s personality to meet the fame in jazz music? Do you find it important?
Ambition, novelty, talents, artistry and commercial skills. Even though one might find all those characteristics in himself I believe that fame is incidental to the musician. Most jazz musicians, including myself do not focus on this issue.

Have you done co-work with foreign jazz musicians? What success have you gained in this field?
Thus far it has mostly been my co-work with the foreigners during the jam sessions. When going abroad I usually look for a nice jazz club where to talk with the local artists in a verbal and musical language. I found even courage to jam in Blue Note in NY. These occasions have always been colourful, and have greatly developed my skills as a musician.

What new opportunities could appear for an artist with the international relations in music?
Most of all, with the establishment of good international relations outstanding opportunities might appear for the development of one’s skills in music. For second, new output and distribution channels for music could be found.

What festivals or places for performance could be suggested for presenting one’s skills in the international arena?
I believe that there are no clubs or festivals where musicians should not go to perform. If you find the audience that loves your work you must have found yourself in the right place.

Please, tell about the current opportunities of the Estonian jazz musicians to have their albums produced by world famous labels?
The strategy is the same everywhere – exciting product and good promotion. Ofcourse, we could emphasize on the exotic appearance of the Eastern European music. I have found it effective for instance when performing with our Russian spoken reggae band.

How could the music producers find their new talents in Estonia?
There should be competitions for finding the talents in jazz, cause we don’t have any clubs where the stage is opened to the unknown artists. It is great that we have the festival Tudengi Jazz for the young people and Jazzkaar where musicians take part together with foreign artists.

Could the publishing of your music by a well-known record label give you access to the new means in the making of music or just recognition as an artist?
First comes recognition, and then the new means in the making of music are to be found.

In the finding of an output abroad, could we notice vantage-ground among Estonian senior artists?
Elder musicians remain less ambitious. Opportunities are opened to everyone. Music has not set borders to any age groups.

According to Tanel Ruben racism finally disappears through the multi-cultural enrichment of the international music landscape. What is your opinion?
I agree.


Anneli Kadakas 

Anneli Kadakas started her musician career in the field of folk music. Besides studying table harp at Pärnu Music School Anneli started to play drums in different music groups whichfore was later kicked out of the school folk ensemble. This event showed the path to become a drummer. After her scholarship in history at Tartu University and H. Eller Music School majoring drums Anneli graduated from G.Ots Music School. Since 1997-2003 she studied percussions in Estonian Music Academy. Anneli works as a professional drummer who has performed several times in Estonia, Norway, Canada, USA, Germany, Russia etc. She has taken part of variable music projects including also symphony orchestras and rock groups (ex. End Variations, Ka-Funky, Rasta Orchestra, Henri Laks, L'Dorado, The Superdogs, Zorbas, Mambo Inn, Donna Lee, EMA Big Band).

Anneli loves to spend time riding her horses and play various exotic rhythms:”I’ve always admired the work of the people from Africa and Latin-America”. Her favourites are Buena Vista Social Club, Manu Chao, Jamiroqai, Chick Corea, "Medeski, Martin and Wood" and Miles Davis.


Tanel Ruben 

Tanel Ruben has played drums in several Estonian and international jazz groups, and works as a percussion teacher in Estonian Music Academy. Ruben studied jazz at Gothenburg University in Sweden. He likes to stress out that he gained his biggest knowledge from Toomas Rull and Peter Danemo, though also the so-called virtual guides should be mentioned such as Peter Erskine, Jack De Johnette, Vinnie Colaiuta, Elvin Jones and Tony Williams. According to the guitarist Oleg Pissarenko, who called together a Quartet with Tanel, Taavo Remmel and Meelis Unt we can find the play of Tanel Ruben infallible in its approach. Ruben has been engaged in various music projects all over Europe, and recently the performance took place in New York. He’s albums are seld in seven different stores of Germany. In addition to the involvement in Weekend Guitar Trio and Hortus Musicus, the music of Ruben could be heard together with Siiri Sisask, Heli-Mari Arder and saxophonist Lembit Saarsalu.

Tanel Ruben likes to play and develop new jazz styles regarding the rhythms of dance music. In 2003 Hyper.Records released album “Sentimental Calls” performed by Tanel Ruben and Victoria. “I’m not a factory. Every music piece is born spontaneously through a flash of wit about harmony, melody or rhythm figures. Ideas come to my head, I shall polish them on piano whereafter the orchestra is put together on my computer”, said Tanel Ruben to Postimees.


Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Estonian percussion masters 

In Tartu Kevadfest 2004 all the young Estonian bands, and especially their drummers are welcomed to join the contest led by Roland Sutt. All the competitors less than 22 years old have an opportunity to promote their skills in music, and moreover, win a free stage in a concert in Finland.

On May 8 Tartu Sadamateater welcomes ten bands and ten drummers. The festival organizers believe they could present the best of Estonian new music generation, wherefore the whole repertoire of the bands will be previously chosen by the jury itself.

Tartu Kevadfest 2004 is mainly focusing on drummers. Their appearance should be guaranteed by inviting only rock groups to play in the contest. According to Roland Sutt they expect to find only new talents participating:”I know there are musicians who come to play in the festival every year, and leave usually also with all the prizes, but this time I shall not let those guy in.”

In the following articles preview of the two percussion masters of Estonia is given as an introduction to the upcoming interview with Tanel Ruben and Anneli Kadakas. The questionnaire is expected to reflect the achievements of Estonian top drummers, and their viewpoints to the current situation in Estonian jazz music.


Monday, April 05, 2004

Warm and cold 

Golden sunbeams cut through the tar-blacked room. The arrows are turned to the two artists who are willing to fill the evening of Scotland Yard with improvisational music. It is March 30, time for Jazz Tuesday.

Neither Ara Jaraljan nor Jaak Lutsoja has much to do with the music from the yards of Great Britain. They belong to the jazz-trio, led by guitarist Oleg Pissarenko who together with his friends offers peaceful airy music for meditation in jazz. Tonight, the contrabass and the accordion take over the rhythms played on accoustic guitar. Ara Jaraljan who has studied double bass in Boston starts with standard harmonic themes to warm-up the hands of Lutsoja. The accordion takes us out to the streets of Paris in spring. The next song is different from the first be-bop form. It is named Uus Puu (New Tree), written by the missing fellow Oleg Pissarenko. It has something of the northern characteristics. The tunes come out of the deep structure that has appeared in a spiral shape. We can recognise the fullness of sound. “The music represents opposition to the modern mentality of rushing”, songwriter Oleg Pissarenko has said. The great use of altered chords is melted together with the evegreen sounding melodies. Some of us want to clap their hands. The club is dizzy.

After twenty minutes of play the musicians take a break. Their music has left us the feeling of great freshness. An hour later the band returns to continue the meditative chanson, but this time Ara Jaraljan plays be-bop in a schizophrenic way. He is a real master of this woody sound. A man who has studied architecture in Armenia must know how to build the house on music. Jaak Lutsoja handles accordion as the breeze which goes through the floors of the music. Finally beauty and peace have been emerged. The music manages to keep distance with cool jazz through the beat of the vital strings and the hot jamming texture. On the other hand we find the music full of nostalgic elements. It should be heard on the streets of the Old Town of Tallinn, but be recognised under the title “sostenuto”.

Few people listen and wait for each flash of wit.Thus far the performers haven’t heard a single applaus. People claim that it is not common here. A huge club and nobody takes the time to listen to the Estonian top artists. Jaraljan has a face as if he would like to leave the stage. He has the self-confidence, but not the will to end the sound of Lutsoja’s accordion. Jaraljan is shy in front of his companion who eyes him with a piercing gaze “I don’t care, I just play my part”.

The sensitive style in jazz vanishes with the coldness of the audience. Hopefully the lonely mood will not last forever. Spring is waiting outside. Jaraljan and Lutsoja put on their coats, take a last look at the stage and leave Scotland Yard.


Poor man’s jazz 

Since the beginning of 2004 we could visit the jazz easy-listening sessions in Bonny & Clyde and Scotland Yard every month. Although the music is often presented there by commercial groups we find jazz artists who stay original in their content. Why do they bother to work for it? It seems that artists bring their music to the clubs only for the money.

No one would like to rehearse or polish the music pieces for the concerts that lack in attentive audience and cosy milieu. The success of the show now depends on the mood of the artist. The boring standard pieces could only be turned into colourful jazz music with a passion to do so. Many jazz groups interested to entertain the clubs are not taking care of their true fans - usually the monotonous background music or evergreen is provided. Moreover, if the music is played on a poor sounding synthesizer with electronic rhythms for accompany, the club might as well turn off the lights at the tables.

Every performer has to cover several expences when having a concert. Poorly financed musicians will keep the expences on the equipment low. It is hard to merge commerce and art, but one must earn his living. Every musician believing that the making of music is not an actual substitute to the financial credits should pursue the goal of actively performing in order to earn a living. The major complaints of the musicians include lack of pay, small audiences, and few venues in which to perform. When speaking to club owners in other parts of the world, one may find similar irks. However, the artists have to do their part well - their own PR work. Hard-working musicians have a good following. This means maintenance of mailing lists, and production of posters and fliers etc. Nowadays one can find a lot of places to play and a lot more media in which to expose them through.

The atmosphere of jazz evening is left cold without the visitors of the event. The music starts to suffer and the reputation is gone. The ones who listen to jazz music do have their passion for the live music but still need guidance to the exact location of their favourites performing. If the musicians will serve their community of listeners they will also draw the biggest crowds to any clubs inviting the artists.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

May begins on March 24 

TALLINN, Club BonBon– Legendary Marju Kuut hides herself behind a huge monitor. According to the the concert organizers this is just one of the requirements to make the Estonian jazz queen feel comfortable on the stage.

Marju Kuut is very sensitive to the cold current of air. The audience surrounds the stage as if they were trying to protect her frail voice. Should we call her Marju or Maryn E Coote? She looks so different tonight, dressed in wide legged orange pants and hooded cloak. Despite the juvenile outlook we expect her to start with one of the famous songs from the 1970’s. Marju kindly asks us to quit the cigarettes. The band begins to play.

Marju’s visits are few and far between. Tonight, she brings a surprise with the excellent conditions of her voice. It sounds sweet and tender in its hoarseness. The first songs are presented in English with one or two verses in Estonian translations. The Ella Fitzgerald song is full of new rhythms and fusion. The wordless scat singing is not crossing the octaves Marju could reach twenty years ago. This time she cognizes the moment the voice is cracking. The audience witnesses the hard work with the voice. Marju clears her throat. It is a sign of an old hit to be performed. The jazz diva claps her hands and chews a gum with a look of satisfaction. Marju seems to be feeling more comfortable when singing the old Estonian ballads. As a matter of fact her enunciation has changed after the days in USA. The way she says the vowels make us think whether Marju Kuut had just come off the ferry. However, the change in her vocalization fits to her new style. She starts to dance in a funky way. Next song will be “Get Back” written by The Beatles. The lyrics remind us that Marju’s journey in USA has come to the end. It goes like this:“Wearing her high heel shoes and her low neck sweater. Get on home Loretta. Get back - oh get back where you once belonged...”.

After a little break Marju presents us different songs from blues to bossanova. We are enchanted with her new music pieces, where band takes a back seat to the catchy vocals. Marju Kuut has taken a big step forward in the field of funky music. Tonight the new songs pan out as the Paul Simon's bridge over troubled waters. During the guitar solos she reads the notes and looks as if she prefigures the exact sound of her next phrases. Her most famous hit “Raagus sõnad” starts a wave of applaus. This old sad melody makes us feel the cold coming down the spine. It is beautiful. Marju drinks some water and appears to the front of the curtains again. Some people have left the room - maybe they wanted to remember Marju’s performance ending with the hit from the 70’s. Anyhow, the audience has to face the progressiveness of their jazz diva. The future is now. The concert “Märtsis algas mai” has sent us the message we all should keep in our mind:”March begins in May”.

Despite the pseudonym Maryn E Coote we find the new-old Marju Kuut part of the Estonian jazz history. She has finally become self-confident. We couldn’t hear a single rash mannered tune or a punk-stylish protest against the nostalgic listeners – no more did she have to prove her notion in the modern music. So let us hope that people have finally fallen in love with today’s Marju with her new look and modern songs.


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