06/10/11 By Antje Huebner
Latvia's Rigas Ritmi Festival Celebrates The First 10 Years!
With A Stellar Line-Up of International Artists, June 30 - July 2, 2011
Ten years after its founding in 2001, The Rigas Ritmi Festival in Riga, the capital of Latvia, has become a bonafide jazz destination and important stop on the European jazz circuit. Created by Artistic Director and jazz drummer Maris Briezkalns, the Festival is a showpiece in the Baltics, featuring an expansive view of jazz, honoring music drawn from a variety of cultures, including home-grown artists.
Staged in numerous indoor and outdoor venues around the city, this year’s programs - many of them free of charge - feature a sterling cast of international musicians, among them, Das Kapital, Carmen Souza, Till Brönner, Alfredo Rodriguez,
Francesco Cafiso, Philip Hamilton Vocal Project and the Alex Wilson Salsa Orchestra. Past headliners have included Diane Reeves, Bobby McFerrin, Richard Bona, Patti Austin and The Yellowjackets.
In keeping with its long-standing programming tradition, the festival will once again focus on jazz education, offering workshops and master classes. This year, famed United States vocalist and educator Philip Hamilton leads the way.
Beginning with 2011 the festival will broaden its scope with two auxiliary programming seasons in Spring and Winter. These concert series will ensure high level jazz in Latvia all year round.
A beautiful seaport city, Riga was founded more than 800 years ago. It boasts a rich heritage of influences and nationalities, laying the framework for its role as an important cultural hub among Baltic countries. Riga’s historical center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers the perfect backdrop for a musical stroll through the largest city of the Baltic States. Latvia borders Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania.
The Rigas Ritmi Showcase is hosted by the festival every four years. It serves as a meeting place for international members of the jazz industry. All gather to meet and evaluate local Latvian talent. In mid- May Latvians were invited to the U.S., when Jeff Levenson, EVP of Half Note Records, created a Cultural Exchange Program, which enabled Latvian jazz artists to perform at the famed Blue Note jazz club in New York. This program was enacted through the cooperation and sponsorship of New York University (NYU) and The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Next year’s Rigas Ritmi Festival will feature American artists performing under the same auspices.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY ABOUT LATVIAN JAZZ AND THE CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM
"Maris Briezkalns and his group proved that Latvian jazz is more than just alive and well - it is the embodiment of a creative energy that characterizes the human spirit. This cultural exchange program proves that Latvia is taking the lead in asserting its place in the cultural landscape, and that its musicians are significant players on the world stage. The night at the Blue Note was an uplifting triumph." - Jeff Levenson, Executive Vice President, Half Note Records
"It's a great honor to host jazz musicians from Latvia. Our belief is that jazz is a global music, constantly nourished and reinvented by influences the world over. We're proud to participate in a cultural exchange program that promotes the belief that music is the means by which countries can unite. We salute the jazz musicians of Latvia." - Steven Bensusan, President, Blue Note International
"Maris's music connected people, proving that there's a wide audience for real art expressed by committed artists. His performance and ideas married perfectly with America's jazz aesthetic." - Dave Schroeder, Director of Jazz Studies, New York University
"I had a great time playing with this group of talented musicians. Judging by this group, the jazz scene in Latvia is world-class. Our night together was wonderful, and I hope to return to Latvia and extend further the cultural exchange fostered by this very important presentation." - Brian Lynch, Jazz Musician
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