From June 29 to July 2, Riga’s annual Rigas Ritmi Festival kicks off, in what is set to be yet another exhilarating smorgasbord of musical talent, as the cream of the jazz crop descends upon Riga.
Rigas Ritmi celebrates its 16th anniversary, and this year’s vibrant musically packed programme features more than 20 staged concerts.
Maris Briezkalns, the founder of Rigas Ritmi and the festival’s artistic director, stated to The Baltic Times “that the festival will feature some incredible talent.”
“One of the festival’s main concert highlights, of which there are many, will be the great Australian jazz legend, multi-instrumentalist James Morrison and Latvian Radio big band,” said Briezkalns.
Briezkalns has been a man on an effortless mission to propagate the interest of jazz in Latvia, and build the cornerstones of the festival educational programmes, master-classes, workshops, and seminars for young musicians, held by world renowned musicians who appeared at the festival.
Since founding the festival in 2001, Briezkalns has invited 500 artists from more than 20 countries, and has staged more than 500 concerts. Briezkalns, undoubtedly one of Latvia’s most passionate jazz ambassadors, is himself the avid drummer with the Maris Briezkalns Quintet, whose project Mark Rothko in Jazz has toured the world.
Briezkalns noted that the project Mare Balticum which was first presented at the 2014 Rigas Ritmi Festival was a unique project which featured original jazz arrangements by James Morrison of classic Latvian folk songs.
“The Latvian Radio Big Band will reunite with Morrison, and will be joined by some special guests — the great jazz pianist Justin Kauflin and bass guitar player Michael Pipoquinha, giving American and Brazilian interpretations of Latvian folk tunes,” said Briezkalns.
When asked about the suitability of staging a world class jazz festival at the Riga Congress Centre, a venue which many consider an inferior acoustical hall, Briezkalns stated: “The Congress Centre may be good for pop music, but with other things it’s going down.”
“It’s difficult to play in the Congress Centre because of the acoustics. You have to make special acoustical shields,” he explained.
About asked about the need for a new concert venue in Riga, Briezkalns expressed his frustration at what is becoming “an old story in Riga.”
“Every year we feel that Riga needs a new concert hall,” said Briezkalns.
Briezakalns stated that the 2017 Rigas Ritmi Festival will definitely explore new venue possibilities for where to stage festival concerts. Briezkalns suggested Riga Dome Cathedral courtyard as one option.
“We would like to explore more intimate venues, venues that are not so big, venues that offer better sound, and also concentrate on small things that make people feel more comfortable when attending concerts.”
If there are just nine reasons why to attend this year’s Rigas Ritmi Festival, here they are:
First, the greatest living jazz vocalist, the multiple five-time Grammy Award winner, the exquisite American jazz diva DIANNE REEVES will perform a programme from her latest Grammy-awarded album, Beautiful Life. It is an album that has been described as her finest recording to date. An album that is glorious, accessible R&B-drenched contemporary jazz, as sophisticated as it is honest. Reeves embodies jazz’s enduring values of elegance, class, and improvisational poise
Second, the American jazz pianist, composer, and record producer JUSTIN KAUFLIN has been described by legendary trumpet player Clark Terry as of the most talented pianists that has ever walked the face of this Earth. Kauflin, who is blind, astonished the music world at the age of 15, when awarded the title of Jazz Artist of the Year by VEER Magazine.
Third, the world renowned Brazilian jazz superstar musicians CAVALCANTE (guitar) & PIPOQUINHA (bass) were musical prodigies as children. Rigas Ritmi Festival unites the wunderkinds for this special appearance in Riga, Latvia.
Cavalcante & Pipoquinha share a trajectory that links at many points: the musical family background, the beginning of a musical career in childhood, the musical partnerships with legends of Brazilian music, the uneasiness of new, and the lightness with hard, serious, and sincere work. Nowadays, the two young musicians leave the condition of “wunderkids” to become respected Brazilian musicians — Europe Jazz Network.
Fourth, exemplifying the festival’s core values, Rigas Ritmi Festival invites jazz lovers to attend the Rigas Ritmi Festival WORKSHOPS. These workshops allow the opportunity for both beginners, professional musicians, and the general public to meet, work with, and listen to some of the world’s finest acclaimed musicians who appear as performers at the festival.
Fifth, Australian jazz legend, the multi-instrumentalist JAMES MORRISON and Latvian Radio big band, united at the 2014 Rigas Ritmi Festival for their award winning unique project collaboration Mare Balticum. This year they again unite to perform new arrangements of Latvian folk songs, offering an exquisite opportunity to hear Latvian folk music from an Australian’s point of view. Special guests include pianist Justin Kauflin and bass guitar player Michael Pipoquinha.
Sixth, the concert of the French world music group PARIS COMBO will blend elements from traditional French chanson, American jazz and swing, Roma music, and North African music.
Relentless ovations and crowded concert halls all over the world have welcomed this French pop-jazz-world hybrid band, which will carry everyone away with the group’s eclectic style.
Seventh, The Rigas Ritmi Festival promises a number of the best-kept secrets of the jazz world.
One is the Chilean-born vocalist and guitarist Camila Meza, who has developed a wide international reputation, and performed at festivals and venues throughout the world. Meza belongs to a new generation of jazz musicians that are interested in creating new sounds and allowing diverse influences into their music. Her highly expressive voice with a unique timbre and way of phrasing, and improvisations and accompaniment on the guitar are equally touching and soulful.
Based in New York, Meza, whose improvising is serious business, brings an appealing combination of lightness and depth to all her material. She is a regular performer at renowned jazz venues in the city such as Jazz Standard, Village Vanguard, Blue Note, Smalls Jazz Club, The Jazz Gallery, and Rockwood Music Hall.
Eighth, Olainfarm Jazz Nights. Riga’s DAILE Music House will see musicians from France, Brazil, and Chile perform in what promises to be a special concert programme.
Ninth, the Cuban vocalist and violinist YILIAN CANIZARES will bring forth an important interpretation of her African ancestors’ traditions and rituals in her music, combining them with modern elements. Be prepared to be amazed as she sings in the African Yoruba language of her African ancestors.
Tickets are available at all Bilesu Paradize ticket offices and on the Internet www.bilesuparadize.lv
Rigas Ritmi Festival offers a unique opportunity to attend concerts with a 50 per cent discount. By purchasing the Superticket, one obtains a seat to all concerts of the festival held at the Riga Congress Centre — exclusively the best view and sound!
A full festival programme can be found on the festival’s website www.rigasritmi.lv.