KLAIPEDA - Each year I visit Klaipeda for its Castle Jazz Festival, and each year I bask on the sun-drenched beach until evening when, with the sand still gently tickling my feet, I turn toward the coastal town's Theater Square. A crowd filled with slightly sunburned faces, somewhat similar to mine, are already flocking to the square to hear what they had come for.
For most, the weekend marks the first chance of the year to bask in the approaching summer sun, which undoubtedly leaves us looking like lobsters. But then again, that is what every red-faced lobster in the crowd had hoped for when hitting the coastal highway. By sunset, everyone's forgotten about their sore cheeks and crispy nose, consumed by the toe-tapping rhythm of jazz.
For several years now, Klaipeda's Castle Jazz Festival has put an early-summer smile on the face of every jazz enthusiast. Following tradition, the festival kicks off on the first weekend of June, which is June 3-5 this year, as the coast's first summer celebration.
Each night free concerts, several featuring big-name stars, are held in the very heart of the city - Theater Square. The square is located just across the street from the port, where a public ship will bring you and your sandy feet back from the beach.
This year, festival organizers have invited one of the best trumpeters in Europe, the talented Abram Wilson, who will present his newest album "Jazz Warrior" on Saturday night (June 4). Jazz Warrior is an outstanding debut for this charismatic and engaging young artist who's got everything going for him: great talent, great looks, and a great vibe. Another must-hear on Saturday night will be the guitar/bass virtuoso Steve Logan from the U.S.A. and Dutch flutist Roland Snijders.
The festival's Sunday-night show could be called the return of the "yellow British." Audiences were fascinated by an epic performance by The Jice Aces last year, so the organizers decided to invite them for another "bis." The Jive Aces, for their part, promised that the color of their costumes - just like their program - would have different shades of yellow this year.
For those who want to indulge jazz day and night, the festival has more than the concerts in Theater Square to offer. Some concerts during the day will be held in Klaipeda's Concert Hall and at Kretinga's Monastery Church. Nighttime shows are scheduled to overwhelm the club Muzikinis Angaras, which is next to "Meridianas," Klaipeda's legendary ship on the Dane River.
I could go on and on, but it would just come down to this: Don't miss Klaipeda's jazz festival. It will stir your soul, free your mind, and move your sunburned feet.