35th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 13-16 October, 2022

Oak Birches and Klaipėda Jazz Orchestra

Lithuania

Tomas Razmus – reeds
Simonas Kaupinis – tba
Arnas Mikalkėnas – perc

Kęstutis Sova – bs, leader
Mindaugas Apulskis – ts,
Dovydas Stalmokas – as,
Mindaugas Vadoklis – tp
Dmitrij Levencov – tp
Jonas Katauskas – tp
Domas Grumbinas – tp
Valdas Surdokas – tb
Artūras Staigys – tb
Sigitas Saukalas – tb

The project, which brings together the most prominent representatives of jazz and improvised music from the Provisional Capital and the port city, promises an intriguing concert. It will prove that geographical boundaries are becoming irrelevant for jazz in Lithuania – it is not only in the capital that musicians are taking up innovative ideas, but interesting processes are also taking place beyond its borders.

The participants in this project have collaborated in more than one interesting undertaking before. But this time, the jazz giants of Central and Western Lithuania will present Bon Bon Paris, an album the Oak Birches and Klaipėda Jazz Orchestra released in 2020 on vinyl and CD.

Formed in the Provisional Capital, Oak Birches is a dynamic multi-instrumental trio in a class by itself involving Arnas Mikalkėnas, Tomas Razmus and Simonas Kaupinis. They are not interested in traditional music-making formulas. The trio’s performances also feature instruments rarely seen on stage.

These musicians have a long-standing partnership and know each other’s individual styles. The group actively performs in Lithuania and abroad. Oak Birches has recorded five albums.

Saxophonist and bass clarinettist Tomas Razmus is often heard in the performances of various big bands, which have brought him on stage with Bob Mintzer, Lasse Lindgren, Vladimir Chekasin, Kenny Wollesen, Francesco Angiuli and many other great jazz artists. Appreciated by his peers as one of the most flexible improvisers of his generation, Razmus is a regular participant in various avant-garde and improvised music projects and performs as a duo with A. Mikalkėnas.

Simonas Kaupinis graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in tuba and a Master’s degree in Contemporary Music/Improvised Music from the LAMT and studied at the Gioachino Rossini Conservatoire in Italy as part of an exchange program.

He participates in projects with composers, plays in various improvised music formations, including the Improdimensija Orchestra, Laivo Troupe, Kanalizacija, the contemporary music ensemble Synaesthesis, and is a member of Rakija Klezmer Orkestar.

The tuba player participates in jazz and academic music festivals in Lithuania and abroad.

Arnas Mikalkėnas is one of the most active performers of free improvised and jazz music in Lithuania, a group leader, composer and pedagogue. He also has his say in the performance genre.

Liudas Mockūnas is a frequent collaborator, with whom Arnas founded the Improdimensija Orchestra and initiated the Improdimensija series, in which he also performs in various ensembles. Since 2013, they have been performing as a trio with Haåkon Berre, a Norwegian drummer based in Denmark. The trio has toured in Lithuania, Estonia, Norway and the Czech Republic and released the original music album.

He also plays in duos with Tomas Razmus, and with Dominykas Vyšniauskas. In the past, the improviser enjoyed the productive partnership with Justinas Kalinauskas, the creator of contemporary alternative theatre and happenings.

Mikalkėnas has collaborated with a number of renowned masters of improvised music including Yumiko Yoshimoto, Michael Moore, Santiago Quintans, Kresten Osgood, Anto Pett, Kenny Wollesen, Anne Liis Poll, Lasse Lindgren, Jerome Fourrier, Ken McCann, Francesco Angiuli, Nuria Andorrà, Mikolaj Trzaska, David Stacken and Kirke Karja.

In 2018, together with Daiva Masaitytė he opened Jazz Academy in Kaunas, an institution of non-formal education focusing on improvised music. He also teaches at the LAMT.

Mikalkėnas has given concerts in Italy, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Estonia, Norway, Latvia, Czech Republic, Austria, Spain, UK, Serbia, Romania, France and other countries.

His discography amounts to over 20 albums.

Oak Birches and the Klaipėda Jazz Orchestra have already met at the Improdimensija concert at the Vilnius Record Studio. The orchestra’s leader, saxophonist Kęstutis Sova, favours concerts in unconventional venues.

In 2013, he brought together the best jazz musicians of the Western region – professionals and students, current and former Klaipėda residents – to form the Klaipėda Jazz Orchestra of the calibre the port city had never had before and contributed to it becoming the ambassador of Western Lithuanian jazz.

The orchestra represents the city in various international jazz festivals and projects, and regularly organises educational programmes for young performers in Klaipėda. It has shared the stage with many well-known foreign musicians, including Jojo Mayer, Vern Spevak, David Katz, Spanish Francisco Angel Latino, Ukrainian Anastasia Bukina, Grammy nominee from the US Nicole Zuraitis, Italian guitarist Allesandro Florio.

Klaipėda resident Kęstutis Sova has become a kind of a link between jazz aficionados of Central and Western Lithuania. In addition to seaside bands (Klaipėda SKA Foundation, Klaipėda Jazz Orchestra Combo, other big bands), he also plays with the Kaunas band FreeFS. Together with Mikalkėnas, he initiated and patronizes the Lithuanian Youth Jazz Orchestra, which has brought together young talent from all over the country, even from the remotest parts of it. In 2020, the ensemble reached the finals at the Vilnius Jazz Young Power competition.

Since last year, Sova has been teaching saxophone and jazz ensemble at the Klaipėda Faculty of the LAMT.

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