NYU Ensemble Latvian Tour – Part 2

October 6th, 2010

Life and work have conspired against a timely follow up to my Latvia Part 1 post, so here we are more than a month later picking up the pieces. OK, let me see if I can remember what happened next….

The morning after out marathon day in Riga we left the big city for a”run-out” to Jelgava, which was about an hour or so away. We’d be returning to our hotel in Riga after the day’s activities; a master class, dinner and the concert at night. The cats were in great playing shape after all the gigging yesterday, and really stepped it up to another level. Back to Riga to catch some z’s and pack….

The next day we checked out of the Radisson (we’d be returning for a few hours of sleep after the last gig before the flight home) bright and early and hit the road in earnest, now a four hour ride to Reskene in the eastern part of the country. Things felt a bit different here; certainly more down home and a bit somber, but not in a bad way if you know what I mean. We visited a pretty incredible place, a famous church and shrine of the”Old Believers”, which are the Orthodox worshipers of the original, archaic version suppressed at the time of Peter the Great. Many of this faith fled Russia proper to surrounding lands such as Latvia, both in the olden times and after the Revolution, I believe (I would need to do a little more research to be sure). Very severe, spiritual folk, with a feeling from another time. The church bells were incredible, and their sound transfixed me! I had recently read about the Russian Orthodox church bell tradition and their mystical aspects in a magazine article, but here was the real thing; an amazing, stupefying edifice of harmonics with the most shattering attack I could ever conceive of. I could not tear myself away from the sound.

A good concert, and a fun gathering for dinner in the hotel after. This was a much more modest establishment than our Riga hotel, but the food was good and the atmosphere seemed to promote conviviality. There was something about this area that I liked very much; its quietness had a calm intensity that opened the mind up a bit.

Next morning another longish bus ride to the most historic and gracious city of Cesis. After a causal lunch, the first order of business was the tour of the castle. Going back to the 13th century, the castle was the hq of one of the Germanic orders of warriors, a cross between knights and monks, that controlled much of these parts in those times. I would imagine those badasses were similar to the cats that Ivan the Terrible put a hurting on, as in the Eisenstein film. A pretty amazing place, well restored without a fake “medieval” treatment. We had a great guide and it was really interesting stuff – I often opt out of touristy activities, but this was another diversion well worth the time.

Cesis is known as an artistic and culturally active city, and proof was in the next activity. A presentation of a special art work to the Cesis Art Museum (located on the grounds of the Castle), donated for just this occasion of our trip by co-sponsor New York Foundation for the Arts, was given by our own Peter Cobb. Our bassist Jin Park and I played as a duo for the dignitaries present, including the US Ambassador and the Mayor of Cesis:

Afterwards at the reception I had a most enjoyable talk with the Mayor. Turned out he was an ex trumpet player and had worked his way through school! I had him almost halfway convinced to start on the long tones again….

Our last concert was a great summation of all the hard work the cats had done all year and the growing they had done on tour. It was quite an achievement to learn to function successfully as a Latin Jazz band when most of them had never played this idiom previously to our project. Everyone did very well, as you can hear here:

The Brian Lynch NYU Afro-Caribbean Jazz Ensemble

Brian Lynch – trumpet, leader, instructor
Peter Cobb – alto sax, liaison with NYFA, student tour coordinator
Casey Berman – tenor sax
Brad Gunson – trombone
Steven Feifke – piano
Jin Park – bass
Jamie Eblen – drums
Alex Raderman – percussion

Thanks to the NYU, the US Department Of State, the US Embassy, and NYFA for making this possible. Special thanks to Davida Baxter and Lauma Bruvele, our US Embassy guides and tour coordinators.

Comments are closed.