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.


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