VILNIUS MAMA JAZZ I ANDY SHEPPARD with ESPEN ERIKSEN TRIO and Lithuanian JJazz Ensemble

VILNIUS MAMA JAZZ I ANDY SHEPPARD with ESPEN ERIKSEN TRIO and Lithuanian JJazz Ensemble

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ANDY SHEPPARD with ESPEN ERIKSEN TRIO

(UK, Norway)

Andy Sheppard – s

Espen Eriksen – p

Lars Tormod Jenset – db

Andreas Bye – dr

ECM Records, one of the most prominent and interesting jazz record labels, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. To be honest, we did not take this into consideration when pitching the programme of this year’s festival. However, looking at the programme, it is obvious that this year’s Vilnius Mama Jazz festival will be an early Christmas for the many Lithuanian fans of this much coveted exceptional aesthetic label featuring distinctive music and talented musicians.

The crowning glory of this year’s festival will be the Norwegian saxophonist, Mathias Eick, who has collaborated with EMC Records for a decade, and the trumpet player, Nils Petter Molvær, another Norwegian who has released a number of albums on the ECM Records label. The British star on the ECM Records label, Andy Sheppard, the international saxophone maestro, will kick off the festival. We guess that this is the first time Lithuania will see such a line-up of stars associated with ECM Records.

Sheppard’s output for ECM Records is only part of his achievements on the jazz scene. Sometimes music critics are surprised that although Great Britain has many talented jazz musicians (and the Vilnius Mama Jazz audience has had several occasions to attest to this), they are usually considered second best after American jazz musicians among the global jazz music elite. Sheppard, whose professional career spans over four decades, is recognised by jazz historians as an exception. The British saxophonist and composer is a global household name in jazz, a holder of numerous awards, a composer of music for big bands, chamber orchestras, and television, a musician who has shared the stage with the most famous music stars of the planet and who continues to surprise audiences with his inexhaustible imagination.

Even the story of his emergence on the jazz scene is so colourful that it has inspired a few documentaries. Andy decided to be a musician quite late, at the age of nineteen. As he remembers he once heard the legendary John Coltrane’s record which blew him away. ‘I knew I had found my vocation. I sold everything I owned and bought a saxophone,’ Sheppard said.

Three weeks later, the young musician who had learned to play, took to the stage to play with local bands. Soon afterwards, he moved to Paris, where he had to face the challenge of living as a young musician – to play for pennies seven days a week in pubs and bars improving his technique and making acquaintance with musicians.

After his return to Great Britain in the mid-1980s, he started an impressive solo career.

In 1987, his first solo album in collaboration with such stars as Randy Brecker and composer Steve Swallow became a true sensation. Shortly afterwards he won the Best Newcomer Prize at the British Jazz Awards. A year later he earned the Best Instrumentalist Award, followed by the Best Album (Introductions In The Dark). Subsequently, he formed a big band composed of the famous European musicians. In other words, things were moving quickly ahead and included the collaboration with the famous Blue Note Records label and a world tour taking the first Western jazz group to play in Mongolia.

Sheppard has written more than 350 compositions, took part in countless stage performances and lent his instrument in the albums of other music luminaries (he recorded a dozen albums with the legendary pianist and composer Carla Bley alone).

Sheppard combines South American and Asian rhythms in his music earning him the title of the musician with eclectic taste. He is able to find a place in the recordings and stage performances of a variety of line-ups. For instance, he has recorded albums with folk-rock singer John Martyn, pop star Judie Tzuke, jazz organ virtuoso Barbara Dennerlein, Indian violinist L. Shankar, jazz experimenter Keith Tippett or even the punk rock icons the New York Dolls.

At the start of his career Sheppard played with North American jazz giants such as Gil Evans and George Russel, today he attracts performers of the younger generation with whom he is engaged in fascinating music projects.

Since the release of his album Currently In Color in 2009, Andy has cooperated with ECM Records on such projects as Trio Libero and Surrounded by The Sea and these are seen as among the best works of this talented musician. They confirm the wide horizons of this musician and his musical collaborations from electronic sounds to the reworkings of Gaelic folklore.

Sheppard plays elegant, minimalist, and accessible music full of serious content. In Vilnius he will appear with the musicians from Norway – a trio of pianist Espen Eriksen who have been making music together for 11 years.

Since 2010, the group has recorded three albums and performed in 16 countries. Lithuania will be one more country on the list. The group plays lyrical, ‘pure’ music that perfectly matches Sheppard’s the less is more approach.

Sheppard will play at the Vilnius Mama Jazz for the first time, but it is likely he has already heard about the festival. His latest album Romaria released this year was recorded with his two stage collaborators well known to the audiences of the festival, the Norwegian guitarist, Eivind Aarset, (who played at the festival in 2010) and drummer Sebastian Rochford (who played at the festival with Sons Of Kemet in 2015). The world is indeed surprisingly small, but it is also an opportunity to remember the famous names already inscribed in the Vilnius Mama Jazz programme, and this list will be further supplemented after this year’s festival.

LITHUANIAN JJAZZ ENSEMBLE

(Lithuania)

Vytautė Pupšytė – voc

Tomas Botyrius – as

Leonardas Pilkauskas – as

Liutauras Janušaitis – ts

Tomas Razmus – ts

Simonas Šipavičius – bs

Jievaras Jasinskis – tb

Albinas Gražulis – tb

Valentas Marozas – tb

Laurynas Lapė – tr

Audrius Zalcas – tr

Valerijus Ramoška – tr

Mindaugas Vadoklis – tr

Tomas Dičiūnas – p

Pranas Kentra – g

Arman Isojan – db

Domantas Razmus – dr

If trombonist, composer and arranger Jievaras Jasinskis was asked about the strangest and funniest moment in his career he would probably remember spring 2010.

At that time the musician represented Lithuania as a member of InCulto at the Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Oslo, the capital of Norway, and together with other members of the band performed wearing silver tight fitting pants.

The song The Eastern European Funk of InCulto failed to make the final of the contest and soon afterwards the group dissolved (it however inspired news in foreign press and a funny parody online). Today Jasinskis moves in totally different circles.

Jasinskis started his career in the group Bekešo Vilkai, later played with a group of famous Lithuanian musicians, and is currently best known and most active arranger in our country.

Ieva Narkutė, Linas Adomaitis, Neda Malūnavičiūtė, Merūnas Vitulskis, Monika Linkytė, Gytis Paškevičius, Girmantė Vaitkutė, and G & G Sindikatas are only some of the well-known performers that Jasinskis has collaborated with during their shows with orchestras or large groups of various constellations.

This summer he arranged the songs of the iconic Lithuanian performer Andrius Mamontovas from the album Šiaurės naktis. Pusė penkių for orchestra. Next year they will be played in the largest arenas across Lithuania.

In addition to his work with the Lithuanian rock, hip hop and pop music stars, this highly talented young musician does not forget his own creative work and his greatest passion – jazz. Last year the debut album Sus Signal of his jazz band Reinless was released and also saw the debut of an ambitious project involving the 17-piece jazz big band Lithuanian JJazz Ensemble.

To put together a new jazz orchestra is quite a challenge today. Stages where it can perform in Lithuania are few and far between and to bring together musicians who perform in other groups for a concert is not that simple either.

The musicians did not allow these challenges to deter them from their passion. The debut concert of the orchestra featured compositions by Jasinskis (whose initials are playfully hidden in the title of the ensemble), saxophonist Liutauras Janušaitis who plays in the orchestra, and songs of Dorotėja Būdaitė. Lithuanian JJazz Ensamble has also appeared with the vocal ensemble The Backs and at Vilnius Mama Jazz they will take to stage with vocalist Vytautė Pupšytė.

Pupšytė’s warm voice is familiar to Lithuanian audiences. Back in her student years in the 1990s she formed the group Jing'a'ling and later performed in the duet Sielos Ūsai.

The line-up of the orchestra features more well-known names – in addition to saxophonist Janušaitis, we have prominent trumpeter Valerijus Ramoška and Simonas Šipavičiaus, a member of Sheep Got Waxed (a group which plays music which transgresses the boundaries of genres).

The debut album of the orchestra has already been recorded and should be released next year.

So far this is the perfect opportunity to assess the ambitions and ideas of the new collective at Vilnius Mama Jazz. The fact that this orchestra opens the programme of the festival this year is undoubtedly symbolic. Regardless of what the sceptics say, jazz is still alive, pulsating, moving forward and changing. Lithuanian musicians will celebrate it and if this is your first experience of the Lithuanian JJazz Ensemble, we believe you will definitely want to repeat it.

The organisers of the festival reserve the right to change the programme.



Duration: 4 hours

Door opens before: 1 hours


Free entrance for children: NO.

Permission to take photos, record: NO.

Organizer: Vilniaus džiazo klubas, VšĮ.

More information: www.vilniusmamajazz.lt +370 612 29 419.

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