VILNIUS - Jazz is one thing Lithuania doesn't take lightly. Spend one day at the Vilnius Jazz festival, and you'll see why. Since its 1987 debut, the annual event has earned itself an international reputation, welcoming jazz luminaries from across the globe.
This year, the festival will open on a less traditional note 's a union of contemporary jazz and symphonic music. The Vilnius Concert Hall will reverberate with P.Whiteman's orchestra playing Gershwin's famous Rhapsody in Blue, celebrating the composition's 80th birthday.
Then, two renowned collectives and experts of their own art, the Dainius Pulauskas jazz group and Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra will present Pulauskas' Suite for jazz group and symphony orchestra, led by maestro Gintaras Rinkevicius.
In this seven-movement suite, listeners will experience a symbiosis of jazz and symphonism. The composer not only pushes the symphony's rich timbral possibilities, but dedicates much attention to the orchestra's strong facets 's its percussion, vibraphone and marimba. Using a synthesis of academic and free forms, Pulauskas toys with various elements 's a rhythmic criss-cross between the orchestra, both group and solo performances, and jazz reefs tinted in orchestral colors.
While working with the Oktava orchestra in 1981, Pulauskas tried his hand at composition and arranging. Over the last decade, the maestro has led and composed for his own ensembles: a quintet that soon grew into a sextet, becoming one of the most outstanding and active jazz groups in the country.
Pulauskas is truly the ambassador of Lithuanian jazz, and no one else can be credited for the ensemble's massive success. He has led the Dainius Pulauskas Group, which has earned accolades in a number of prestigious European and Asian jazz festivals, for more than a decade now.
"Pulauskas and his colleagues play the best fusion you could find," wrote Swedish critic Bo Levender. "The variety of their expression means is staggering. It is a topsy-turvy of madcap swinging and rhythmâ€¦ the purest, most unembellished jazz."
The well-known jazz group, referred to as "the powerful pulse of modern jazz," by Finnish critic Risto Haapsamo, will be joined by the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra.
During the 16 years of its existence, the orchestra has given more than 900 concerts at home and abroad. But despite the orchestra's mainly classical repertoire, the collective is not afraid to experiment.
As for the rest of the festival, if it's anything like the opening night, the Vilnius Jazz will have to start watching its ego. To give you a hint, performers include Norway's Eldbjorg Raknes, Kazutoki Umezu and Hiviya Katan from Japan, Bill Wyman, the Marc Ducret Trioâ€¦ enough said.
Vilnius Jazz Festival
Oct. 6 's 9
Vilnius Congress Hall
Oct. 6, 7 p.m.
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