TALLINN - For millions of Christians throughout the world, Christmas is the happiest and the busiest time of the year. Many celebrations take place in Tallinn, but one of the biggest events is the Christmas Jazz (Joulujazz) Festival, which takes place from Nov. 29 until Dec. 17 in various locations around Estonia.
Joulujazz, or Christmas Jazz Festival, which is part of Estonia’s biggest jazz festival ‘Jazzkaar,’ features up to 30 concerts in which an international program of jazz performers fills stages around the country.
Jazzkaar is the star event of Estonian jazz, bringing together the world’s best performers. The name of the festival recalls the Estonian folk party ‘jaskar.’ It also reminds us of the variety of colors in jazz music – like in the rainbow, which all can be put under the umbrella of jazz. Jazzkaar is the arc uniting musicians, the audience, different periods and styles of jazz. The goal of the festival has always been the same: the introduction of music on as large a scale as possible, starting with avant-garde and ending with mainstream jazz, including the more interesting styles of world music and blues.
Jazzkaar first started in the autumn of 1990, when it was titled ‘The Days of Jazz & Blues in Tallinn.’ After Estonia regained its independence in 1991, the festival’s name was changed to Jazzkaar.
Grand Spring festivals contain 50 concerts; performers come from dozens of countries and concerts take place in many Estonian cities. During its existence, Jazzkaar has hosted more than 2,500 musicians from over 50 countries. As a non-profit concert agency, Jazzkaar organizes about 100 concerts a year.
In its turn, Joulujazz festival was held for the first time when the world-famous Danish bassist, Nils Henning Orsted Pedersen, who was always too busy to come to the annual Jazzkaar Festival in the spring, agreed to come to Estonia in December 1996. It should be mentioned that this was not his first visit to Tallinn. In 1970 he gave several concerts, together with the legendary jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson. The ‘mini festivals’ of these times have now grown into a grand festival, lasting a fortnight and bringing together performers from all over the world.
Highlights of the Joulujazz 2009 line-up include French virtuoso violinist and composer Jean-Luc Ponty. He is undisputed master of the violin in the arena of jazz and rock. He is widely regarded as an innovator who has applied his unique visionary spin that has expanded the vocabulary of modern music. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Ponty helped define jazz-rock fusion. For the past decade he has worked consistently on the outer edges of technological developments, while incorporating into his writing the trends of the time.
Another main performer at the festival is the rising star Giana Viscardi, from Brazil, and the star of European clubs Christian Prommer from Germany. For the first time in the history of Joulujazz, Ivo Linna, the beloved local singer, will take the stage.
The festival will also feature performances by one of the most innovative drummers from New York, Ari Hoenig, together with his trio Punk Bop, one of the members of which is the talented Estonian jazz pianist Kristjan Randalu.
Christmas Jazz will also take the opportunity to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the legendary American clarinetist Benny Goodman. Gerli Padar, Mart Sander and the ‘Finnish Goodman’ Antti Sarpila will perform together with the Police Orchestra Big Band, as well celebrating the anniversary of the Republic of Finland.
As the tradition goes, the charity concerts ‘Help to Start the Life’ will also be held within the festival. Margus Vaher and Iiris Vesik will be performing with little children from the radio choir in order to support the Pelgulinna Maternity Hospital.
Moreover, in December, Klassikaraadio will broadcast seven seasonal concerts from the 2009 Christmas Jazz Festival from Tallinn. Through Euroradio’s network two of the broadcasts will be heard by millions of listeners in various European countries.