The International Improvisation, Jazz and Global Music Festival Rīgas Ritmi 2021, which was full of challenges this time, was officially closed with the performance of the outstanding Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca at VEF Culture Palace in Riga.
The performance of Cuban jazz master Roberto Fonseca on October 19 at VEF Culture Palace was the last concert of the festival, while the other concerts of this year’s festival took place on four warm summer days from June 30 to July 3.
A rich musical program was offered, and the concerts took place in four festival locations – VEF Culture Palace, Jersika Records Stage at the art center Noass, music house Daile and cultural space M/Darbnīca, on the terrace of which very well attended official jam sessions were happening as well.
At the VEF Culture Palace, a unique mix of different musical traditions was offered by the global music supergroup Bokanté, a jazz evening in Spanish colors was taken care of by singer and saxophonist Antonio Lizana, but the dynamics and color of Cuban music were vividly demonstrated in the performance of the Roberto Fonseca trio.
"The Rīgas Ritmi Festival stage was beautiful and even the audience was beautiful”, admitted Roberto Fonseca after the performance in Riga. “People were into the music, chanting with us, laughing with us and clapping with us. That's why we are looking forward to coming here again and playing here again.”
“When the things are done with passion, you notice it, and this is what happens in Rīgas Ritmi Festival”, says Antonio Lizana. “You can feel the ambience since the stage to the streets. Looking forward to come back!”
At the music house Daile the unique project Riga Jazz Allstars led by Latvian pianist Viktors Ritovs, the experienced Lithuanian modern jazz masters Shinkarenko Jazz 4N, and Latvian pianist Kristaps Vanadziņš together with the colorful local singer Ieva Kerēvica and other friends performed.
A great novelty of the festival program was Jersika Records Stage at the art center Noass, where concerts were given by the international quartet Vyšniauskas/Čudars/Poišs/Arutyunyan, Lithuanian saxophone duo Liudas Mockunas and Arvydas Kazlauskas, and Latvian musicians – jazz poetry project klausies, pianist Kristaps Vanadziņš trio, guitarist Jānis Ruņģis, and the vibrophonist Miķelis Dzenuška with the band Uzvaras bulvāris.
The cultural space M/Darbnīca offered musically intimate concerts by Finnish pianist Tuomo Uusitalo trio, and Latvian performers – pianist Rūdolfs Macats quartet, pianist Gatis Breijers sextet, pianist Toms Mikāls trio, and drummer Ivars Arutyunyan quartet in its concert hall.
In total, 17 different bands and solo artists from six countries of the world performed at the festival this year.
“Subtitled “Impro-Jazz-Global”, this four-dayer did indeed cover all of those areas, with Bokanté (formed by Snarky Puppy’s Michael League) providing the Guadeloupean fusion, and the Spanish saxophonist Antonio Lizana offering his marriage of jazz and flamenco", in the British jazz media Jazzwise writes reviewer Martin Longley. “Customarily, Rigas Ritmi is a more international affair, but this 21st edition took its time to look inwards towards the Baltic State scene, making it ideal for a visiting newcomer to that territory”.
“First of all, what the artistic director Māris Briežkalns and his team do is absolutely in line with the main trends of the leading music countries and their festivals, because you have to go and see what is happening in the USA, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands to understand that what offered by this festival is absolutely adequate”, comments Boriss Avramecs, locally well respected music critic and professor of the Latvian Academy of Music. “Secondly, the organizers of the festival have a colossal intuition and a lot of experience, which allows to invite those young musicians who are rising stars endowed with phenomenal talent to perform in Riga. This is a very important feature of the Rīgas Ritmi Festival".
“We are really satisfied with the work done, which, taking into account the presence of various restrictions, this time required double strength”, admits the artistic director of the festival Māris Briežkalns. “With its 21st release the Rīgas Ritmi Festival has proved that it can provide a program of quality music in any conditions, and the festival became a bright pearl in the declining cultural life of the Latvian capital, so we will start working on next year’s festival with confidence in mind and heart… ”
“It was a pleasure to be a part of this year’s Rīgas Ritmi Festival”, adds Mareks Ameriks, the founder of the vinyl label Jersika Records. “The stage on the water in the AB dam with the surrounding green environment made everyone feel the atmosphere of the festival, when between the concerts you could enjoy the panorama of Riga Old Town and the Daugava river, watch a short film and enjoy jazz on vinyl records and studio tapes. Thank you to the festival and personally to Māris Briežkalns for their persistent work over many years and this cooperation! And see you again at the festival!”
Assessing the artistic program and organizational quality the European Festival Association repeatedly awarded the prestigious quality label EFFE Label to the festival Rīgas Ritmi this year.
Organizers of Rīgas Ritmi 2021 – Contemporary Music Center – expresses gratitude to the festival supporters: Riga City Council, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, the State Culture Capital Foundation, Tele 2, US Embassy, Embassy of the Italian Republic, Latvenergo, Turkish Airlines and Audi Latvia.
The 22nd International Festival of Improvisation, Jazz and Global Music Rīgas Ritmi is planned for next summer.