Jazzkaar Journal: Dianne Reeves, George Duke and Tallinn Shine
Jazztronik is Japanese trumpeter/DJ/producer Shigeru Terauchi's funky house conglomerate and Rock Cafe was a good fit as the house. Jazztronik faced the formidable task of playing funk in the same setting George Duke had lit up the night before, and they didn't dishonor themselves.
With the singularly named vocalist Eliana, keyboardist Ryota Nozaki, bassist Ichiro Fujiya and drummer Masanori Amakura, Jazztronik began in a frenzy that took a few moments to catch on but soon got into a rapid fire groove. The crowd of around 350 liked mutant styled effects on the keys and horn but alternately responded most to doses of frantic fusion or plain old formal piano chords.
Jazztronik could handle soul or traditional quartet charts but they were at their best when pushing boundaries. Hard bop segued into Bossa Nova as the band got the crowd thrashing.
The Nils Wogram Nostalgia Trio showed how well their concept of trombone, Hammond B3 and drums can work. Some of their show at RCC was hit and miss but as many good scientists know, not every experiment yields flawless results. Wogram is definitely on to something. As a single segment, the song "Affinity" was as strong as anything to be heard. If you like the Hammond organ this was your show.
Touted bass prospect Peedu Kass delivered a strong set with his 005 quintet. Sometimes when almost everybody is trying to find a new direction the sounds can get strained. In sticking to a standard form for his small hall appearance, Kass pulled a nice, unusual move and provided a welcome escape from too much innovation overload. Kass didn't try to be too pushy, he just did his job, very well.
Clazz, a music club/restaurant that lives up to its name, had jam sessions many nights if you could find any open ground. Maybe beautiful, dark haired waitresses in skin tight silk had something to do with the tables being full of rowdy chaps, but at least they paid attention to the music. Theatre NO99, a brightly decorated underground jazz hive adjacent to opera and symphony halls, held an intimately packed overflow house for Sweden's Marti Tarn Group with Nils Berg, a little gem of a set that seasoned observers listed among the festival's nicest surprises.
Among other favorites in a program very strong on unusual vocals were Finland's a capella group Party of Five, who had one of the most well attended, enthusiastically received shows of the series. Their instrumental imitations on Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy" was so remarkable one could be forgiven for insisting they must have swallowed magic reeds. Even if a cappella isn't your cup of Tallinn tea, the performance was enjoyable.
Further vocal kudos went out to unique Swedish lyricist Lina Nyberg, who explained to the audience that she would be presenting relatively new works featuring songs based on names. Songs like "Claude," "Alice" and "Cinderella" showed how far out the theatrical Nyberg is as a singer/songwriter, and she did a good job of taking listeners along for the ride.
Maybe the most impressive thing among many high points of this year's Jazzkaar was the creative range of female vocalists involved. Reeves certainly delivered. The other girls did too. Ma Tallinn should be proud.
2011 and Beyond
Jazzkaar currently runs annually in April. After starting up as a Fall festival in economically difficult times, durability has been a virtue. Jazzkaar consistently offered good quality and an awareness of diverse aesthetics and ethnicity. In response the community has grown as a consumer base reaching a ticket level of 25,000 sold. With the crucial support of Estonian cultural funding and sponsors like Elion, Tallinn 2011, Sokos Hotel Viru and Estonian Air both art and business can thrive.
Nils Wogram Nostalgio Trio
Artistic Director Anne Erm has been a driving force behind Jazzkaar since 1991 and keeps the fires going as a producer of Estonian jazz radio. The dynamic Ms. Erm, along with ultra-efficient journalist sweetheart Madli-Liis Parts, among others, coordinated a fantastic festival that continued to earn its growing reputation. "With my background as a singer and composer I have to feel the music on a personal level to invite someone," explained Erm. "It's always risky. The audience wants something new, but they have to know someone enough to buy tickets." Almost anyone who experiences Jazzkaar finds a bounty of pleasurable reasons to return. British tourists have already discovered Tallinn's comparatively cost effective benefits. Stag parties are an industry told by many "gentleman's clubs." One has to wish Estonian tourism the best but also hope a growing rush doesn't lead to an overload of tourist buffoons. For now, class still shows in most quarters.