Jaak Sooäär (b. 1972) was born in Tallinn, Estonia. He graduated from Tartu University in 1994 (majored in international economy), from the Music College in Tallinn in 1996, and from the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen in 2001. He has been teaching the guitar and ensemble at the Jazz Music Department of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre since 2001, he’s been the Head of the Department since 2004, and was nominated a professor in 2010.
In 2004, he established Estonian Jazz Union which has since then very successfully promoted jazz in Estonia and Estonian jazz abroad. He was the Chairman of the Board 2004–2009 and he’s been Deputy Chairman of the Board and Head of Foreign Relations since 2009.
Sooäär’s first performances (all over the Soviet Union) were as a member of the Estonian Boys’ Choir in which he started singing at the age of seven. He has been active on the Estonian jazz and pop scene since 1989, playing the guitar literally with everybody of note.
Since the late 1990s, Sooäär has performed with many internationally known jazz musicians, including Tony Allen, Ray Anderson, Conny Bauer, Han Bennink, Raoul Björkenheim, Gavin Bryars, Will Calhoun, Kent Carter, Pierre Dørge, Daniel Erdmann, Arkady Gotesman, Mikko Innanen, Anders Jormin, Dave Kikoski, Alexey Kruglov, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Ron McClure, Karlheinz Miklin, Liudas Mockunas, John Schröder, Louis Sclavis, Harri Sjöström, Vladimir Tarasov and Petras Vyshniauskas, and has been active in several international bands, including The Dynamite Vikings, Erdmann/Sooäär Dessert Time (1st prize at international Peer Gynt Improvisation Contest in Pärnu, Estonia, in 2001), Heavy Beauty, Kruglov-Sooäär Quartet, Sooäär/Yaralyan/Ounaskari and Almost Zebra (3rd place at the 5th European Improvisation Tournament in Poitiers, France, in 2001). In May 2006, Sooäär performed as guest soloist with WDR Big Band (Germany). In 1999, Sooäär toured with The European Jazz Youth Orchestra and, in 2003, was a member of the EBU Big Band in Istanbul, Turkey.
One of his Estonian groups, Eesti Keeled, was given the Estonian Music Award for the best etno/folk artist both in 2003 and in 2005. In 2013, the quartet “Mustonen-Sooäär-Remmel-Ruben” received the Estonian Music Award for the best jazz artist with album A Tempo (AVA Muusika). In 2007, Sooäär was the first to receive the Annual Estonian Jazz Award and in the same year he also received an annual award of the Estonian Culture Endownment (Eesti Kultuurkapital). Jaak Sooäär has recorded over 30 CDs.