Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Estonia's next vocal wave rolls into The Trane Studio Thursday

Since stumbling onto the majestically funky 70s recordings of the Estonian vocal ensemble Collage over a decade ago, I've made a point of checking Melodiya label releases from their Riga plant more closely for anything coming out of Tallinn.
Albums by Marju Kuut & Uno Loop,  the Tallinn Jazz Ensemble and many others soon followed but I always returned to the three classic albums  which innovative conductor/arranger Aarne Vahuri made with the students from the Tallinn Conservatory and Tallinn School Of Music and Pedagological Institute with the brilliant rhythmic support of forward looking young jazz musicians including pianist Tõnu Naissoo, bassists Meeme Saareväli and Toivo Unt along with funky drummer Peep Ojavere.
There's something refreshingly unique about the Estonian vocal tradition which Vahuri first tapped into on their stellar self-titled 1971 debut that brought together elements of ancient folklore with modern jazz harmonies in a dazzling new way. Well worth investigating is the two-disc Collage retrospective Parimad Lood released by hyper.records although Wool Recordings well-selected sampler Fifty Four Minutes Twenty Seconds will be much easier to find.
Naturally when I recently noticed a listing for a Toronto appearance by someone calling themselves The Estonian Jazz Sextet at The Trane Studio (964 Bathurst) on Thursday (August 26), I was curious about who might be playing in the the mysterious group.

Regrettably, no one involved has a Collage connection but it's a stellar assembly nonetheless led by Estonia's 2010 Jazz Artist of The Year saxophonist Raivo Tafenau who's joined by gifted pianist Jürmo Eespere, guitar-star Virgo Sillamaa, Estonian Dream Big Band bassist Mihkel Mälgand and in-demand percussion prodigy Eno Kollom who now appears to be Tafenau's drummer of choice. But wait, there's more.

Perhaps most intriguing are the two vocalists for the evening, the promising Kadri Voorand who fronts her own ensemble in Estonia with both Eespere and Mälgand that's been drawing rave reviews on the European jazz festival circuit and, amazingly enough, 21 year-old Laura Põldvere better known to millions of Eurovision fans as simply Laura, Estonia's answer to Lady Gaga.
That's right, believe it or don't, the Eastern European singing sensation who became a star as a 17 year-old member of Estonia's own Spice Girls, Suntribe, Põldvere eventually went solo and reinvented herself as Euro-disco diva Laura with a flair for "futuristic" stagewear and choreography to match as can be seen in the clip of her performance of Destiny as part of Eurovision 2009 below. 
A recent stint at Boston's esteemed Berklee College seems to have turned the classically trained violinist in a jazz direction which actually isn't as shocking as it might seem if you've seen her sweetly sensitive rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobin's Dindi on Estonian television (check out the clip).
She's definitely got the pipes so it should be interesting to see how Põldvere puts them to use in the company of some of Estonia's finest improvisors at the Trane Studio Thursday night. In any case, it'll be a rare opportunity to see Laura up close sans Christmas ornamentation – just don't count on her to bust out any of the club anthems from last year's Ultra album. Tickets are $10 at the door and the first set starts at 8 pm.

The Flame by The Kardri Voorand Group @ Birštonas Jazz Festival 2010

Let's Get Loud by Suntribe w/ Laura Põldvere @ Eurovision 2005

Dindi (Jobim) by Laura Põldvere 2007

Destiny by Laura @ Eurovision 2009

Kadri Voorand
Virgo Sillamaa
Mihkel Mälgand
The Trane Studio

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