Estonian jazz celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018

Estonian jazz celebrated its 100th anniversary, and it’s more full of life than ever before. This year brought us over 20 new jazz albums, promotional events at foreign jazz festivals, publicity on the cover of international jazz magazine Jazzwise and big projects made especially for the local audience.

Many new albums of 2018 were published in cooperation with foreign labels: “A Shooting Star”, debut album by Sooäär/Yaralyan/Ounaskari, “Hommage á Veljo Tormis”, Maria Faust’s “Machina” and Kristjan Randalu’s “Absence” were published with ECM. Kadri Voorand signed a record deal with German label O-Tone Music and her new album will be published in spring 2019.

It was the XII jazz award season for Jazz Estonia and Jazzkaar. A whole new category was added – Estonian jazz composers – to give recognition to fresh works from Estonia. Kristjan Randalu won the first award. Danske Jazz Award 2018 went to double bass player Mihkel Mälgand. Saxophone player Lauri Kadalipp got the Young Jazz Talent title and the honour of being named the Jazz Promoter was shared between Vision Festival and the director of Saue Music School Kristiina Liivik. Kirke Karja Quartet was the Best Jazz Ensemble of 2018.

Estonian Dream Big Band got company: a new and ambitious big band New Wind Jazz Orchestra was born. Its leaders are young and talented musicians Lauri Kadalipp and Sten Valdmaa.

The celebrations of Estonia’s 100th anniversary started already in 2017, and now they continued in full steam. In 2017 Estonian jazz concerts took place in Belgium, the United Kingdom and in Finland. 2018 brought more concerts in the United Kingdom, Germany and Finland. In September 2017 we visited B-EST Jazz Fest in Brussels; we went to Tampere Jazz Happening in Finland and played at EFG London Jazz Festival in November.

In April 2018 we visited Gateshead International Jazz Festival in the United Kingdom, in May we went to Berlin’s XJAZZ Festival, in June we visited Elbjazz Festival, and Finnish Pori Jazz was visited in July.

Three Estonian Jazz ensembles performed at Gateshead International Jazz Festival: Kadri Voorand Quartet, Heavy Beauty and Voorand-Koikson-Sooäär-Daniel. Two Estonian jazz ensembles represented Estonian jazz at XJAZZ Festival: Kristjan Randalu Trio and Maarja Nuut & HH. Festival Elbjazz had two Estonian jazz ensembles, too: Estonian Voices and Estrada Orchestra. Pori Jazz Festival hosted three Estonian artists: Kadri Voorand’s duo with Mihkel Mälgand; Joel Remmel Trio and Erki Pärnoja: Efterglow.

All the events that were organized under the aegis of Estonian Republic 100 have proved themselves worthy – Estonian jazz musicians have never enjoyed so much international media publicity than in the period since last September until today. Estonian jazz reached two important jazz magazines: Jazzwise and Jazzthetik. Jazzwise’s April issue was dedicated to Estonian jazz; its front cover displayed a promotional record introducing Estonian jazz and the magazine had several pages dedicated to Estonian musicians and festivals. EV100 programme events weren’t the only internationally significant concerts of the year: Kirke Karja Quartet was chosen from 335 candidates to be one of 16 ensembles that performed at the world’s most important jazz fair: the Jazzahead! showcase.

Nantes Jazz Action helped us arrange our spring expedition to France, where Kadri Voorand Trio, Peedu Kass Momentum and Sooäär & Kruglov Quartet represented Estonian jazz. In September we had the honour of hosting three French jazz artists in turn: they were David Chevallier Trio, Le CoON and Colunia. Ensuing EST-FRA Jazz Fest visited various Estonian cities. Bad Habits Trio and Titoks accompanied the French.

Bassist Peedu Kass represented Estonia in Criss Cross Europe, a residency for young musicians from six European countries. Marilyn Mazur, who is a legendary percussionist from Denmark, taught the young musicians. Their European concert tour reached Estonia on March 1st as part of Talvejazz (Winter jazz). Estonia’s cultural attachés, Luxembourg Estonian Society, jazz organizations and jazz clubs helped young jazz ensemble Titoks conquer European cities, such as Berlin, London, Leeds, Brussels, Paris, Caen, Marseille and Luxembourg.

We celebrate our tenth anniversary of cooperation with Finnish Jazz Union; this brings two Estonian jazz artists to Helsinki and two Finnish artists to Tallinn each year.

Estonian jazz had its concert of the century on 28 November 2018, when 9 Hymns to Freedom was performed at Alexela Concert Hall. It was achieved through EV100 programme as cooperation between Jazz Estonia and Jazzkaar to celebrate one hundred years of the Estonian Republic and Estonian jazz. Twenty original composers/musicians split into small teams to write the nine new freedom hymns. It brought hundred musicians to the stage. 9 Hymns to Freedom was definitely a highlight in the history of Estonian jazz; we’ve never had anything like that before. We can proudly say that it truly was a jazz party.