Report: Estonia Jazz Networking Event at Club Inégales

Tuule Kann and Jaak Soäär
Photo Credit: Madli-Liis Parts. All Rights Reserved

Estonia Jazz Networking Event
(Club Inégales. 11th February 2014. Report by Rob Edgar)

There's a lot that you can tell about a country by its art. At last night's showcase of Estonian jazz at Club Inégales, four groups, representing a cross section of Estonia's musical culture, approached their craft from different viewpoints, but a consistent common thread of solitary contemplation ran through a fascinating and well-supported evening.

First, a folk/jazz duo consisting of singer/zitherist/flautist Tuule Kann and guitarist/composer Jaak Soäär produced an earthy sound (they were playing arrangements of Estonian folk music): Tuule sang with that kind of vibrato that one only hears from people with Balkan or Slavic heritage: somewhere between throat singing and the head voice, with an almost tremolo vibrato. Later she picked up a Kannel (a kind of Estonian zither) and played it in two different ways: in one piece it was resting on her lap, whilst she gently plucked and teased out notes whilst vocalising on top; the next, saw her placing it on its side across her knees, strumming percussively, unleashing a gentle torrent of notes. Jaak accompanied her sparsely, often using single tones - drenched in reverb - as a drone. When he delved into chordal work it was tasteful and his one solo was intensely modal and stayed just within the confines of the style: not safe but delightfully idiosyncratic.

The Kadri Voorand Trio featuring guitarist Virgo Sillamaa, double bassist Taavo Remmel, and singer Voorand approached their jazz from a groovier perspective, but still retained the ever-present sense of introspection and loneliness, making them a refreshing yet definite link in the aesthetic chain of the evening. We heard a straight-ahead rhythm and blues composition that descended ever so gradually into a kind of controlled chaos with the bare bones of structure still, just, apparent; the boundaries between guitar and bass were blurred and the vocals used loops, multitracking, and electronic harmonisations to create a rich melodious broth.

The Oleg Pissarenko Band were the black sheep of the night: they followed the influence of Spirit of Eden era Talk Talk, delving almost into shoegaze-style, ethereal rock music with repeated, hypnotic riffs , and distorted guitar. The prepared piano of pianist Raun Juurikas gave a certain spice to the proceedings (as did his feel: in some places he sounded like he was a semiquaver out with the rest of the band which lent a disjointed flavour), as did Ahto Abner's drums, which were loud and heavy but with subtle jazz inflections.

The band replaced guitarist Oleg with saxophonist Villu Veski and added singer Ola Onabule to create the last ensemble of the evening - The Afrostonians Project - who were far more within the traditional jazz vein than the rest: Veski played some intricate solos and Onabule had some astonishingly agile moments; his range matched only by the sheer power of his voice (he stepped away from the microphone at one point and continued to be heard above the group). Bassist Mihkel Mälgand reinforced the solid groundwork throughout.

It was a worthwhile opportunity to have light shone onto a scene which is greater than the sum of its parts, and definitely worth paying close attention to.

This event was organised by Estonian Music Development Centre and supported by: The Estonian Embassy in London, The Estonian Ministry of Culture, Enterprise Estonia and the European Regional Development Fund

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