Our Juu Jääb adventure starts on Friday evening at 5.30 p.m. at Muhu St. Catherine’s Church. It’s quiet, there are not too many people. We sit and wait, it should start right away. Villu Veski and one other man tape the piano. In the distance, there is an interesting-looking stringed instrument. Everything is nice and cozy, and finally, the performers are entering the „stage“. These are Ryota Nozaki (Japanese composer, pianist and producer known as Jazztronik) and koto player Asuka Yoshizaki. The miraculous soul-touching Japanese-style aural and musical flowing begins. It comes out that the piano was taped to add the anechoic material to make it sound as much as it is customary in Japan – soft and mellifluous.
The acoustics of the church feels enchanting, especially when the player of the ancient Japanese instrument, Asuka, presents the oldest koto piece with vocals. Koto is a special instrument that needs to be tuned and adjusted accordingly before each song, but fortunately, there was also time for an encore. The concert is all the more valuable because even in Japan, it’s quite rare to hear the koto music.
Our next stop is at Muhu Music Farm. The stage is conquered by Tenor Legacy: Baltic Stars composed of Timo Lassy from Finland, Deniss Pashkevich from Latvia, Liutauras Janusaitis from Lithuania and our own Villu Veski from Estonia. A very entertaining and brass-filled concert. The best moment is when a trumpet and three saxophones get together.
After that, probably the most famous and notable musician of the day, Ann Shirley, and her band with great co-vocalists, a pianist, a drummer and two guitar players right from Paris step on the stage. What a vibrant bunch! They truly engage everyone and fascinate the audience with their amazing and colorful voice scale. It is a soul-funk-rock-jazz if you would try to define the genre. Really powerful and, in fact, rather indescribable concert and artist.
With a little delay, Estonians are back on the stage. This time, it’s a fresh collective Gram-of-Fun led by a girl from Saaremaa, Kristel Aaslaid, whose vocal skills are again really powerful. A very funky and danceable group, although their music does not always sound as fun as the band’s name would promise – serious musicians tend to incline toward deeper subjects.
The night continues at the jamming tent and that may even be the most enjoyable and immediate part of the day. The musicians in their own element enjoying themselves and each other, while the audience is enjoying themselves and the musicians. Everything is nice and chill. Those who are going to sleep can fall into their dreams accompanied by smooth sounds, and quietly think, what kind of mesmeric adventures the next day of Juu Jään might bring.
Saturday, 2 p.m, St. Catherine’s Church, Espen Berg Trio. I do not know what to expect, but Norway sounds good in itself. And it comes out that it’s something unprecedented.
Undoubtedly, my best experience at this festival. A totally enjoyable and organic, probably largely free-improvisational performance. Unfortunately, it’s somehow impossible to explain what makes the performance so special, but it’s certain that it was the first time I saw such use of drums. The drummer used at least six different items to quickly alternate sounds on drums. Gently tapping, scratching, bumping, touching, brushing the drums, the plates, the wooden box, his knee … and all these transformations are done fast, gently, enjoyably, with feeling, while bringing everything together with a double bass and an open piano. Everything flows and murmurs, rustles and crackles, like rain on the rooftop or a lone car that glides along the street at night. There was one track, I associated with the weather of Saaremaa, where the quiet enjoyable moment transforms into a frenzied sea breeze and a storm, which, again, vanishes into the silence. I also bought the album and the album cover suitably depicted sea waves.
The following act was the dinosaur parade – Estonian legends: Mati Vaarman and Elmu Värk Organ Trio. My second favourite after the Norwegians. If the old masters themselves start doing something, then there’s really nothing to say. You are listening to the live sounds that have accompanied you since your childhood and you actually see people who are behind all this good music, who have created it. The heart fills with a great deal of well-being and gratitude, which in this case is mixed with pity and sadness as there are many people who would enjoy it very much, who would have been able to offer worthy applause and praise to our truly great grandmasters. It’s really sad if, at the end of the concert, the organizer must literally ask the audience to applaud. Embarrassing. Which also makes me think, what may be the reason that the audience is so small, and those who are there, are quite passive. At the same time, it seems that these GEMS are good enough to accompany drinking and eating.
Next ones in the programme are Laura Põldvere and Villu Veski (Laura and W) who present their newly released „Crazy Enough“ album which largely contains songs that are born in the Muhu Music Farm. As the title implies, the performance is daring and interesting, theatrical and experimenting.
At 11 p.m., the DJ set of a long-awaited and much-advertised Japanese megastar Jazztronic begins. A truly enjoyable and danceable show. Everybody is having fun. Of course, the DJ is adorable and nice, interacting with people and lighting the flame of love and desire to dance in everybody. The show ends with an impromptu idea – koto player Asuka wants to perform one song with Laura, and that song comes to life right there, causing a lot of excitement and the now-and-wow effect.
You could think that the party is over now, but NO. The party moves from the stage to the jamming tent, where the disco continues with DJ Tõnu Kõrvits. I am also on the dance floor – retro is cool.
The whole festival is best summarized by one of the festival guests who said: „This festival collapses under its own weight!“ It could not be said much better. The festival has evolved into a big and expensive event, but there’s not much audience and those who are there, are quite dull. The next year, perhaps it would be a good idea to give a free entry to at least ten young music enthusiasts who could applaud when the time is right and keep the festival vibe lively.
By the end of the two festival days, however, it can be said that I can go to sleep full of joy and happiness, having had the chance to take a journey to the depths of my soul guided by the best musicians and mesmerizing sounds.