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Rīgas Ritmi Festival Reviewed

Performances included Dianne Reeves, James Morrison and the Latvian Radio Big Band and more

Dianne Reeves performs at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival
Yilian Cañizares performs at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival
Michael Pipoquinha performs at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival
Derek Brown teaches a masterclass at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival
Camila Meza performs at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival
Justin Kauflin performs at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival
Émile Parisien (left) and Vincent Peirani perform at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival
James Morrison performs with the Latvian Radio Big Band at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival
Cainā Cavalcante performs at the 2016 Rīgas Ritmi Festival

This year, the Rīgas Ritmi Festival continued its mission to reinvigorate the jazz scene in Latvia, the Baltic nation that was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991, save for three years, 1941-44, when it was occupied by the Nazis. Under the artistic direction of drummer Māris Briežkalns, the festival began in 2001, and as evidenced by its 16th edition, which took place June 30-July 2, it’s accomplishing its goals admirably.

Hosted in Latvia’s picturesque capital, Riga, the festival took cues from many other major jazz festivals by utilizing multiple venues, including Trompete, the city’s main jazz club and restaurant. Rīgas Ritmi used the term “jazz” as an overreaching catchall less than other festivals do; rather, jazz was one of three accurate descriptive subheads, the others being “impro” and “world.” Nevertheless, jazz, in one of its most classic formats, the big band, provided the best vehicle for Latvians to assert some of their own musical identity.

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