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We’re Listening with EMW: Lauri Kadalipp Social Jazz

From South to North in Estonia, the music scene on a national level has proven to be a fertile place for expression across genre boundaries. These are the kind of boundaries that nowadays might inhibit full-on recording sessions in another style: if you’re a folk musician, to communicate your identity clearly, you can’t publicly dip into jazz or hip hop. Or so they say.

Photo of Lauri Kadalipp Social Jazz by Madis Reimund

One musician who has subverted this arrangement is Tõnu Tubli. I distinctly recall hearing his solo drumming during Trad.Attack's sound check at Tartu College years ago. Sandra and Jalmar were rigorously preparing in their green room; scaling through torupill (bagpipe) lines, strumming chords on the twelve string guitar, between managing the band's social media channels.

Meanwhile, the drummer was floating on the opening groove of John Mayer's “Waiting on the World to Change.” The rhythm, originally played by Steve Jordan, is swung, with a backbeat that's delayed just enough to move the song forward with a “hands shifting in the air” sense of balance. Not only does Tubli have the time of his life behind the drums, he is noticeably enamoured by the unknown in music.

Which leads me to Lauri Kadalipp Social Jazz. In the band, there's Kirke Karja on Fender Rhodes piano and keyboards, Allan Järve on trumpet and flugelhorn, Tõnu Tubli on drums and electronics, and Lauri Kadalipp playing tenor saxophone. It's an assemblage of young musicians who reflect the classic jazz legacy, but like the latest movement in jazz music, eschew an overly sentimental handling of that legacy.

Take the song “Addiction”, from their video series Live at Põhjala Factory. The bait for listeners is the cool swagger of Järve and Kadalipp's dual trumpet and saxophone. Then, when the other two musicians come in, the repeating 20 note or so phrase swings its fists like a welterweight boxer. Karja's keyboard chords swirl moodily on the low end, and there is a draggy funk approach to the drumming. Instead of dancing on the ride cymbal, the hi hat and snare take the lead, with objects added on top for added sound textures. Modern drummers add bells and shells all over their kits and rivets in their cymbals, to add extra rattle and rumble to their sound. Airy electric piano creates a pause in the intensity before the song reaches its colossal height again.

In contrast, their song “23. Mai,” feels like a walk on the clouds. The 3/4 time signature is graceful and dreamy. And again—the players love it. They smile and laugh when they hit the sweetest notes, in the most infectious way.

You may wonder why this take on jazz is different than what's come before it. Yes, they work within the framework of a main musical premise, deviating solos, and a return to the main premise. However, they are preventing jazz music from being sealed off for a select few listeners. The popularity of jazz waned in the 60s. Fusion and smooth jazz had their moments, but there is something exciting happening now.

According to Kadalipp, his first compositions were born when he studied at Heino Eller Tartu Music School. He is also a teacher of saxophone and a big band jazz conductor. Even if he is embedded in this scene, though, what's to stop him from exploring nu-disco, for example? What we are seeing is a desire to move away from boxes and cliques, to a listening experience that is unrestricted.

Talk to a Millennial or Generation Z music lover or instrument player about their playlists, and they'll probably talk about Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles, who played a much anticipated show at Tallinn's Jazzkaar in 2018. You'll hear the names Snarky Puppy, DOMi and JD Beck, Kamasi Washington, Vulfpeck, and Jacob Collier. They all fill different pairs of shoes, but form a collective sound here and now. These artists, and Lauri Kadalipp Social Jazz with them, are presenting what you might call “Omnivorous Jazz.” Young listeners don't isolate themselves in one scene. They mingle.

It's social music.

On top of this, these bands are part of a global musical movement of fresh faces who know they can use virtuosity to change the opinion that “they just don't make good music anymore.” Once this technical ability is understood, enjoyment is achieved on a deeper level.

Keen listeners can play Lauri Kadalipp Social Jazz's 2018 album “Feels Just Right” online. We hope it makes the cut for your playlists.

This article was written by Vincent Teetsov as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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