36th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 12-16 October, 2022

Marijus Aleksa

Lithuania

Marijus Aleksa - dr, perc

Marijus Aleksa, one of Lithuania’s most interesting drummers, has a special sentimental connection with the Vilnius Jazz. In 1999, he made his debut here with the professional quartet of his drum teacher, late Oleg Molokojedov. At that time, Marijus was only 13 years old. To this day, he remains the youngest jazz musician to appear at this festival.

And now, 24 years later, Aleksa takes to the stage to present his third solo album, Solo Live in Vilnius. “It’s like the wheel has turned full circle”, he admits.

And in that circle, there are a lot of creative acquaintances and events that have influenced Marijus’ growth. Today, he is hailed as a luminary of the experimental electronics and jazz scene. His work, which combines jazz, rock, world and club music, has been broadcast on BBC, Worldwide FM, Jazz FM, Bandcamp and featured in international music publications.

The drummer has brought his colourful background to his latest album, which weaves together a wide range of influences from West African percussion, Japanese gagaku music to classical minimalism, and instruments from around the world.

Aleksa’s musical journey began at the Balys Dvarionas Music School in Vilnius. In 2002–2005, he continued his studies at the Juozas Tallat-Kelpša Conservatory in Vilnius, in 2005–2008 at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. He also spent a semester at the Berlin Jazz Institute.

His talents were quickly noticed. He garnered prizes in Tamsta Drum Day, Baltic Drummer League, Sony Jazz Stage and other drumming competitions, and performed with the foremost stars of the Lithuanian scene, including Vladimir Tarasov, Liudas Mockūnas, Dmitrij Golovanov, Jan Maksimowicz and Kęstutis Vaiginis.

In 2009, hunger for new experiences and the desire to broaden his horizons led Marijus to London, and he successfully joined the UK music scene, participating in numerous concert tours and recordings with various musicians.

Over the past dozen years, the drummer has performed in over 40 countries around the world with jazz stars such as Keyon Harold, China Moses, Dennis Rollins, Anthony Joseph, Femi Temowo, Joe Armon Jones, Ashley Henry, Gilles Peterson’s All Star Band, Grammy-winning Bill Laurance, Nubya Garcia and Ben Marc.

In 2019, Aleksa was selected for the NBLQ (New Band Leaders Quartet) to represent next generation of British jazz musicians at one of the world’s most renowned jazz festivals, Blue Note At Sea. The drummer has also played with international pop stars All Saints, Blue, Maverick Sabre and Maysa Leak.

After a decade in London, Marijus returned to Lithuania and opened the Rhythm School in Vilnius, where he teaches people of all ages to play the drums. He started to organise the Tamsta Jazz Weekend, a small jazz festival at the Tamsta Music Club, which brings together his partners from all over the world.
Aleksa is one of the most active improvisers in Lithuania. In recent years he has released a number of albums. After his debut solo album Maps (2018), which oscillates between electronic dance, world music, hip-hop, afrobeat and nu-jazz, his second solo album As They Are (2023), a crossover album, was released. On the latter, the drummer is backed by a whole bunch of collaborators he has met in various bands and recording sessions.

This year, Marijus’ discography was expanded by the album Santaka, recorded with DJ Manfredas, which is also the name of the duo, which has been active since 2020. Marijus’ drums are featured on many of British multi-instrumentalist B. Marco’s recordings, as well as on his latest album Glass Effect. He is a fixed member of keyboardist Bill Laurance’s trio, and is constantly working on projects with other musicians and solo programmes, unfolding unheard drum soundscapes. 

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