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Shabaka Hutchings and Mette Rasmussen help Vilnius Jazz Festival push into the future

Vilnius is a city that wears its scars on its sleeve. 23 years since Lithuania declared independence from the Soviet Union, its capital city is well into the process of establishing its identity outside of occupation. Nowhere is this expansive capacity for reinvention more apparent than at the 36th edition of the Vilnius Jazz Festival.

Taking place largely at the century-old Vilnius Old Theatre – recently renamed from the Russian Drama Theatre – over five days the venue played host to the avant garde of European and US jazz.

Just as the grandiose Vilnius Old Theatre blends traditional velvet seating and wooden staircases with contemporary art hangings and lighting features, so the talent on display artfully mixed the old with the dazzlingly new. A homegrown highlight came from drummer and composer Marijus Aleksa, who debuted at the festival in 1999 as a 13-year-old. Over the course of his hour-long solo performance, Aleksa displayed the rhythmic mastery he has developed in the last 24 years. Combining Latin jazz with west African polyrhythms, kalimba melodies and even a foray into Jon Hassell-inspired electronica, Aleksa’s set was mesmeric and constantly-shifting without ever settling into a snare-based groove. A radically confident performance.

Read the review in Jazzwise Magazine.

[This piece was published on 19/10/23]

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