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.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Marju Kuut – walking in her own shadow 

Marju Kuut is convinced that her music style had been far ahead from the time she had found it. Estonian jazz diva is writing unique instrumental tunes and pop songs, and has altogether about 500 official recordings in the archive. There is no doubt that Marju has the will to surprise her audience with something new.

Already at her early age Marju recognised the need for a stronger beat in jazz music. During the Soviet era the music reflecting the freedom of the western productions was largely prohibited in Estonia. In 1960’s the first talents in contemporary jazz appeared to the stage. Marju Kuut started with bossanova and moved on with estrade music. She sang the popular music pieces in Estonian language with great passion and improvisational skill. Marju had the courage to work on groovy pop songs and fill jazz with dance rhythms. Estonian composers were challenged to write new songs with their own notion in the modern music. But it was not enough for the new star full of energy and deep ideas. In 1980 Marju Kuut set sail to the spring of her music.

According to Marju Kuut, when living in USA she had an opportunity to study the techniques which kept the songs vital after the mixing process had come to the end. But she never got a chance to bring her own compositions to the western studios. The jazz diva returned to Estonia after several singles of Christian music had been released by the foreign producers. In 1994 Marju Kuut and her son Uku recorded new pop songs written and produced by themselves. Although, Estonia was a free country with its new challenges in the music world the album “Reserva” was ready for the public ten years after. According to Raul Saaremets, the owner of record company Umblu the album was published in the year 2004 as a collection of the old funky songs, which just had to be saved for the next generations. Marju Kuut had been too progressive again. Things had gone wrong in timing the presentation of her music.

Yet, Marju hasn’t lost her faith in come-back. She believes that the pseudoneum Maryn E.Coote gives her finally an opportunity to present the new styles in her repertoire leaving her famous songs from the 1970’s behind. “Audience should have the will to understand when and where the style could be presented”, Marju said to Eesti Päevaleht. She must be tired of the shadows of the bygone days. Her new songs are inspired by the new moods of her life. It would surely bring a surprise to the elder people when seeing grandmother Maryn E. Coote playing house music as the DJ. But no musician wants to live in the past.

Marju Kuut is back from the tour which took her to Sweden and USA. Now we can listen to soul and jazz music performed by Marju on the ferries cruising in the Baltic Sea. However, it seems to take time to recognize the role of Marju Kuut in the modern music world. Estonian audience will always remember her as the singer of the romantic ballads, and one of the first to whisper jazz in Estonian.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Jazz in Estonia - interview with Elena Lass 

Elena Lass (22) has been working as a journalist in Klassika Raadio and written several reviews of the cultural events appearing in Estonia. While studying musicology at Estonian Music Academy she has also been teaching music to the children of the little island Prangli. Elena plays music in Bottle Circles.

What is new in jazz after Estonia declared its independence?
There’s a tendency to be less original and self-oriented in jazz, which, in general, could be related to disinclination for thinking. Pop-culture impact (for example, the Pop Jazz Department of G.Ots Music School should be re-named Pop Department). On the other hand, more and more performers have a chance to meet large audience in Estonia. Jazzkaar gains more fame than any artist alone.

Taking into account the geographical location could we relate Estonian jazz music with some so-called northern characteristics? How to describe this feature?
Yes, it could be taken under consideration. Jazz music in Estonia is less attractive at its surface but still could be found deep, full of substance. The music appears to be less eloquent than the styles of the southern Europe. The same could be recognised in the other fields in Estonia.

What are the main institutions in Estonia for keeping the jazz traditions in the state alive?
Probably we should forget G.Ots Music School and think more about Viljandi Culture Academy and Jazzkaar.

In general, how familiar is the Estonian audience with jazz artists from the times of Louis Amstrong and the musicians from the modern jazz era?
In any case the knowledge of those cultural issues is more noticable among fanatics. It is obvious that the audience does not know much about those artists.

What does the music mean to them when going to a jazz concert? Is it found as a high-culture event?
Well, it depends... Although, we could find intelligent people in Sakala Kultuurikeskus, it is doubtful whether all of those thousand listeners do have the cultural capital for this music.

Are there enough jazz performances organized for Estonian musicians?Everything seems to be in balance – when there’s a musician, there will also be concerts, and if we do no find any good enough, there is no gig. In both cases, there are no “empty seats”.

What are the most popular places for performances in Estonia among the young jazz talents?
There are different bars, restaurants and pubs, but only few of them could be found progressive in jazz. It’s good enough when one does not perform in a school auditorium. Concert on a big stage is not usual.

What needs must a young musician meet to have a performance in the international culture room?
He has to be good. Much depends on the luck one has in it. I am not sure how do they find, or who could give them those opportunities to perform abroad.

How to describe the contrast between the old jazz stars and the modern artists of Estonia?
At the present, this is exactly the case – there are no artists, only stars in music.

Do the jazz musicians of Estonia get into ideological conflict with each other?
Maybe the conflict appears among the more radical musicians. Because most of them do not show their interest in any specific genre.

Could we find any Estonian who has given lead to the other musicians in the finding of their notion of how to play jazz? Who?
Probably the few music teachers who are willing to work in poor conditions, and could be recognised as interpretators themselves do give also the lead to the others.


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