The year of the birth of jazz in Estonia is 1925, when at Marcelle cafe, located on Town Hall Square, an orchestra called The Murphy Band started their regular performances. Their repertoire consisted of hit songs of those days that became popular in most of the city’s dance halls within a short period of time.
Swing arrived in Estonia in the late 1930s when the repertoire became more American. In 1936, Kuldne Seitse began its activity and it was the best Estonian jazz orchestra before World War II. During the swing period, the first jazz concert took place in an academic environment – at the Concert Hall of the Estonian National Opera. The concert was also broadcast.
World War II and its consequences wrecked the Estonian jazz life at the most exciting moment when it was beginning to gain ground thanks to the new generation of musicians. The free development of the Estonian jazz stopped and the activity continued underground.
The first Estonian jazz organisation is considered to be the Swing Club established in 1947 and led by Uno Naissoo. The first jazz festivals grew from the meetings between ensembles during a time when jazz was forbidden. Tallinn jazz festivals became international when performers from Sweden and Finland could come here starting from 1966. Unfortunately, the legendary Tallinn Jazz Festival that took place in 1967 was the last one due to Charles Lloyd quartet from America being invited. The scandal that took place at the 1967 jazz festival and the album recorded at the Charles Lloyd quartet concert placed Tallinn on the world map of jazz.
When Estonia regained independence, jazz was reborn and now it is advancing with powerful intensity. Jazz music can be studied in various music schools all over Estonia. In 2004, the department of jazz music was opened at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. The Estonian Jazz Union was founded the same year.
By today, a whole new generation of composers and musicians have grown up and once again have taken Estonian jazz to the world map to be alongside with the “old and prestigious” jazz countries.