Birštonas – Lithuania’s jazz mecca – invites one and all to the 18th marathon of quality music

This March 28-30, Birštonas 2014 – the oldest international jazz festival in Lithuania – will be taking place at the Birštonas resort. Bringing together jazz experience from Lithuania and around the world, performers will charm the public with their virtuosity, modern harmony, radiant vitality, enchanting musical compositions and unique musical style. The jazz that has sounded for more than 30 years on the last weekend in March has long earned the Birštonas resort the title of the jazz mecca of Lithuania. Every two years, true jazz “pilgrims” come to Birštonas from Lithuania and around the globe to listen to quality music.
Twenty groups and performers from Italy, Brazil, Mozambique, Norway, Denmark, the United States, Turkey, Estonia, Switzerland and Sweden will appear at this year's festival. One of the traditions of the Birštonas Jazz Festival is for Lithuanian artists to collaborate with jazz musicians from other countries and give a joint performance. This year, a quintet led by Kęstutis Vaiginis - a talented young jazz artist, saxophonist and composer - will be teaming up with trumpeter Alex Sipiagin to present jazz's international and traditions, as well as musical stories of New York - the city of jazz. During the concert, the audience will have the chance to listen to pianist David Berkman - one of New York's brightest jazz stars - as well as trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, Ed Howard (bass), and the today’s most notable musician from Istanbul, Ferit Odman (drums).
Lithuanian jazz professionals will also make appearances at the festival: the Dainius Pulauskas Group and Kaunas Big Band, Vilnius Jazz Orchestra, and Stepas Januška and the JazzWay Quintet. Another interesting Lithuanian professional collaboration will also be presented: Leobard Grey – an improvised music project brought together by saxophone virtuoso Leonardas Pilkauskas. Each and every element is important in the ensemble's performance: Vytautė Pupšytė's texts and vocal colour, Paulius Volkovas' harmonic backing of musical ideas, Leonardas Pilkauskas' melodic lines, and Tomas Dobrovolskis' musical approach to the ensemble's rhythmic colours.
The Birštonas Jazz Festival stage is open to mature, well-known jazzmen and young, debuting musicians alike. This year, for the first time in the festival's history, Laura Budreckytė – a talented singer from Birštonas – will be giving concerts with CinAmono 5 (Lithuania-Estonia-Switzerland), a group that was put together expressly for the Birštonas Jazz Festival. Jazz fans will also have the chance to enjoy musical performances by the young pianist Dmitry Golovanov, the Balys Dvarionas Music School (Vilnius) Jazz Ensemble, and the Vilnius University of Applied Sciences Ensemble.
The Birštonas Jazz Festival stands out for its Grand Prix – a Lithuanian "Jazz Oscar" of sorts – which is awarded for the most substantial contribution to Lithuanian jazz. The Grand Prix has already been awarded to 17 performers, and the musician who has done the most for Lithuanian jazz in 2014 will receive the 18th.
The Birštonas Jazz Festival, which has taken place every two years since 1980, is not only the oldest, but also the most democratic Lithuanian jazz forum – one that presents the most diverse aspects of Lithuanian jazz as well as the variety of genres and styles, from Dixieland to the experimental and innovative explorations of today's jazz. Its programme is also chock-full – a true jazz marathon, where some 20 groups are presented over the course of a 3-day weekend. Lithuanian jazz musicians make up the bulk of the festival programme, so the Birštonas Jazz Festival is like a mirror that reflects the face of Lithuanian jazz; it is a place for musicians to make their debut on the jazz stage, or for established musicians to return to the Birštonas stage, which once served as a springboard to the great international stages. The Birštonas Jazz Festival resonates on an international level as well – it is known in Europe and attracts organizers, producers, and managers of other festivals, as well as jazz critics and journalists from other countries.
This year, jazz fans from Lithuania and abroad will be coming to a renewed Birštonas: concerts will be held in the new cultural space at the authentic Birštonas Kurhaus, and resort guests, performers and jazz fans will be able to stay not only at Birštonas' hotels and guest houses, but at the new Eglė Health Resort as well.

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