29th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 13-16 October, 2016

The First International Jazz Festival In Vilnius

Frances WASKES
 

Glasnost and perestroika are penetrating even the smokey realms of international jazz. Vilnius, capital of the Lithuanian SSR, hosted its first international jazz festival from 30 September to 2 October. Five concerts during the three days of "Jazz Forum '88" provided a showcase for musicians from east and west. While most of them came from Eastern Europe - Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Poland, Hungary and East Germany - the audience also heard the music of Americans, Finns, Dutch, West Germans and Australians.

All of the concerts were well attended. The series climaxed with a sold-out, standing-room-only crowd of more than 1200 people jamming the hall on the final night. Many ardent jazz fans live in Vilnius, which is the home of renowned musicians such as percussionist Vladimir Tarasov and Vladimir Chekasin, horn player and all-round musical magician. Jazz Forum '88 made it possible to bring to Lithuania for the first time such stars as American pianist/composer John Fischer and pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, horn player Gerd Dudek and bassist Ali Haurand, all from West Germany.

Two of the highlight of the Forum were solo performances by von Schlippenbach and Fischer. Von Schlippenbach moved freely through well-composed sections and improvisations of his own music and Ellington and Monk tunes. Fischer's music displayed originality, good humour and warmth. The audience responded especially to his interweaving of classical, patriotic and pop melodies in an improvised, ironic march decrying the folly of war. Tarasov joined him in this number. Chekasin and Tarasov, together with Australian singer Jo Truman, engaged in way-out musical high- jinx on stage involving parodies of operatic and other traditions. The "Quartet", represented by Dudek, Haurand and Dutchman Rob van den Broeck on piano (English drummer Tony Oxley had a gig elsewhere), played modal, mainstreem jazz. The Jurgen Heckel Quartet from East Germany offered hard-driving punk/jazz/rock. Leningrad musicians V.Gaivoronsky on trumpet and V.Volkov on bass comprised an amusing duo marked by unexpected rhythmic cadences and free jazz elements. Among the younger musicians who enchanted the audience were saxophonist Petras Vysniauskas and pianist Kestutis Lusas, both Lithuanians. During part of their duet, Vysniauskas played with the bell of his soprano saxohone immersed in a bucked of water. The other groups who participated were the Discomfort Trio (Latvia), Koenig Trio (German Democratic Republic), Blues Duo (Poland), Labutis- Laurinavicius-Sinkarenko Trio (Lithuania), G.Abarius Trio (Lith.), Young Power Trio (Poland), Martti Hautsalo Quartet (Finland), Skirmantas Sasnauskas Jazz Quintet (Lith.) and Mihaly Dresh Quartet (Hungary).

According to Antanas Gustys, one of the main organizers, Jazz Forum '88 aimed to reflect the European jazz scene and to feature more contemporary music. Sponsored by the Youth Entertainment Center, the Lithuanian Jazz Association and Vilnius Culture Management, it was called Jazz Forum in order to include all musical directions - traditional, avantgarde, free and mainstreem. The entire festival was recorded for television and radio replay. The organizers intend to make the international Jazz Forum an annual tradition.

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