Heavily on the ascent in Estonia, the young Tallinn band Kirke Karja Quartet released its debut album last year. The meeting of several opposites gives the record a considerable charge. Acoustic ECM/Scandinavian type jazz merges with electric fusion, melodically and rhythmically complex structures meet spacey simplicity, vigour shakes hands with calmness. The material comes mostly from the leader, pianist Kirke Karja, while improvisation is also an important element. Outside of jazz, there is influence from Karlheinz Stockhausen and modern classical Estonian composer Eduard Oja. In 2014 Karja won the prestigious “Young Estonian Jazz Talent” award. She is also a major force in the Pae Kollektiiv. Originally a classical pianist, Kirke mentions Raoul Björkenheim, Dave Holland and Jaga Jazzist as the inspirations that got her into jazz.
Estonian folk music and pop-jazz merge into a rich whole in Kadri Voorand's and Mihkel Mälgand's duo, where the singer’s way of using her voice stuns you. Looping, reverb and other effects bring extra-width to the seamless union of human voice, piano and bass. They may surprise you by dropping a very personal arrangement or two of well-known hits in the middle of original material. Singing tradition is very strong in Estonia and from that Voorand has risen to be one of the country’s best singers. Whether it’s jazz, wordless scatting, experimental improvisation or Estonian folk songs, which she sang as a kid in her mother’s band, Voorand is at home in all of them in all combinations from solo to choirs. She leads several different bands and has so far done 13 albums, including the ones recorded as a band member. Mälgand uses both double bass and 6-string electric bass and is one of Estonia’s most in-demand groove keepers.
Heavy Beauty is an apt name for a band, where Baltic region’s two upmost jazz visionaries meet. Here the masterfull Lithuanian reedsman Liudas Mockunas favors the heavily grunting bass saxophone, though he might also use other members of the sax family. Estonia’s number one axeman Jaak Sooäär finds chronically new uncharted areas from his electric guitar, while the rhythm section may at times turn real funky. The action happens in a territory mostly watched over by Raoul Björkenheim, Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman and Sonic Youth. It is raw in a weirdly sophisticated manner, but can surprise you with emotionally grabbing beauty, when you least expect it. Blessed by a not-underlined sense of humour, the quartet can really meld rock and jazz together and while the attitude is fearlessly free, they don’t shy away from shameless romanticism, when the moment is right.