Europe Jazz Network 2021 Conference, Tallinn, Estonia – News, reviews, reports and commentary from the London jazz scene and beyond

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Tony Dudley-Evans has just attended the 7th European Jazz Conference, which was held at the Telliskivi Creative City in Tallinn, Estonia from September 16 to 19, 2021. Here is his report in six parts:

The group photo. Photo credit René Jakobson/ RJE
  • The Europe Jazz Conference offers a great networking opportunity between the main promoters and jazz festivals across Europe.

The Europe Jazz Network now has 172 members in 34 countries, and the conference had an excellent turnout with over 200 participants. The main activity is meeting and chatting with people who share common musical interests, and after an absence of two years, the general feeling was that it was great to meet up and see old and new friends again. Showcases are also a vital part of the conference.

There were of course plenary sessions and group discussions; Teacher. Ignaas Devisch from Belgium gave an excellent plenary talk on the importance of finding the “homo erraticus” in ourselves, that is, discovering by wandering and experimenting without specific targets or objectives. The musicians Marie faust from Estonia and Alex hawkins from the UK noted a positive note during their plenary discussion, explaining how they had both used the lockdown period to create a lot of new work and how they appreciated the freedom to do so offered by the lockdown.

Maria Faust’s “Mass of Mary” Photo credit: Rene Jakobson / EJN
  • Estonia is rightly considered the “song capital of the world”

Estonia has a huge tradition of vocal music and choirs, and the conference presentations showed how this tradition has had a strong influence on Estonian jazz.

On the first evening, Maria Faust, saxophonist and composer, presented her ‘Mass of Mary’ with 19 members of the Musical College Choir driven by Endrik Ãœksvärav, plus a brass section of alto saxophone (Faust herself), trumpet, trombone and bassoon. It was a stunning piece that brought out the qualities of the choir and incorporated the horn section whose textures brilliantly complemented those of the choir.

Other vocal performances mainly featured singer and multi-instrumentalist Kadri Voorand, who is a force of nature. She appeared on the first night at Philly Joe’s Jazz Club with the Tanel Ruben Quintet in which his vocal skills were displayed in unison themes, including a duet with the saxophonist Raivo Tafenau, and in his scat solos. Voorand also appeared with her excellent duet project with the bassist Mihkel Mälgand, and in the six members Estonian voices.A vocal highlight of the demo sessions was the Tormis Quartet, who again featured Voorand with another singer Liisi Koikson and guitarists Jaak Sooäär and Paul Daniel reinterpreting the songs of Veijo Tormis, one of the most important Estonian composers of choral music. The quartet used the conference to present an accompanying visual exhibit of interesting facts about Estonia. It was extremely well done.
I also enjoyed the improvised vocal sextet sets Improvoc, and the most straight Susanna Aleksander Quartet.

The concert of the Free Musketeers. Photo: Rene Jakobson / RJE
  • There is also an interest in the tradition of experimental performance art in Estonia.

The Free Musketeers presented a totally offbeat, completely insane performance in which the actor Jan Kaus theatrically depicts a man who first has no friends, then finds himself friends, but is then attacked and knocked out by his microphone. It was in a way so silly it was hilarious and I loved it. Much of the fun came from the leader’s excellence Mingo Rajandi on the double bass, the brilliant interruptions of Ekke Västrik on synthesizer, and Ahto Abner to the battery. Apparently, the group appeared with great success at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Kirke karja. Promotional photo of René Jakobson
  • Estonian female instrumentalists appear mainly in free improvised ensembles.

For me the highlight of the demo sessions was a set featuring Kirke karja at the piano; she leads a threesome with Etienne Renard on bass and Ludwig Vagabond to the battery. Their music was a very good example of music improvised freely within certain elaborate structures. Another key instrumentalist is bassist Mingo Rajandi, frontman of The Free Musketeers described above.

  • The standard of the showcases was generally high

In addition to the sets described above, I enjoyed the sets from Sooäär / Yaralyan / Ounaskari, Peedu Kass Momentum and Uma, this last group is distinguished by the sound of the corno da caccia instrument played by Alexei Saks; it is similar to the French horn, but has a softer sound. I was also impressed by the different performances of the pianist, Kristjan Randalu, in his solo project and in Peedu Kass Momentum and the Tanel Rubin Quintet.Besides the showcases with Estonian groups, the Swiss trio Heinz Herbert Trio performed a fine ensemble as the first winners of the Zenith Award for Emerging Bands selected by a jury of six EJN members.

The opening dinner at Seaplane Harbor Photo credit: Rene Jakobson / EJN
  • Tallinn is a great place for a conference or festival

Tallinn is a very attractive city and the conference was extremely well organized by the Jazzkaar Festival, Jazz Estonia and the Europe Jazz network team

CONNECTIONS: Europe Jazz network website

Complete conference photo sets


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