A Personal Memory of Jazz in Vilnius

I have recently attended the excellent Vilnius Jazz Festival and have written a review of it on London Jazz News; you can read it here.

In that review I comment on the zany humour of some of the band and musicians, particularly the Nojo Airlines performance, and the role of the drummer Dalius Naujokaitis-Naujo. This brought back memories of my first and only other visit to Vilnius in the mid 1990s. This was a time when Lithuania had recently obtained its independence from the Soviet Union, and was in a period of transition. A particular feature of that transition was that it had a temporary currency with notes with pictures of animals.

At that time I was still a lecturer in English for Specific Purposes (ESP) at the University of Birmingham, and I was invited to lecture at a seminar on ESP for university teachers from the Baltic countries. That went well, and on one the evenings I was taken to hear some Lithuanian jazz. I was being looked after by the British Council in Lithuania, and I imagine my interest in jazz was noted in their files. I had also heard the Ganelin Trio when they toured UK, and I was keen to hear more Lithuanian jazz.

I have a very strong memory of that evening. A bit of research suggests that it took place in the Cafe Neringa, but that may be mistaken. The music was excellent, but my strongest impression was of the zany humour that was part of the performance. It seemed to me to be something characteristic of Lithuanian music and culture as it emerged from the constraints of the Soviet Union. So at this year’s Vilnius Jazz Festival I was intrigued to note that this humour is still a feature of Lithuanian jazz.

As I say in my review, the Vilnius Jazz Festival is an important European festival, and Vilnius is a lovely city to explore on foot.

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