Peedu Kass Momentum is unquestionably one of the successful bands in contemporary Estonian jazz scene and they have achieved success in broader international musical environment. In 2015, for the first time in Estonian music history, the band was chosen for the most important jazz music showcase, Jazzahead in Bremen, Germany.
Today Peedu Kass Momentum was awarded as the best ensemble of the year by Estonian Jazz Awards. The band’s musical style is very distinct with its Nordic sound that is, in itself, another interesting concept. Below is the interview with bassist Peedu Kass and drummer Toomas Rull, two members of Peedu Kass Momentum, explaining what it means to sound Nordic and being distinctive with it.
What does it mean for you to receive the jazz award of best ensemble?
Peedu Kass: Well, it is great to get acknowledged for what you do. Of course, music competition is not very common. When we do music, it [the award] is not the thing we think about. But, of course it makes you happy when somebody notices and wants to make a point. We’ve been doing this band for five years now, so it feels good to reach some milestones for this period.
How would you describe your music? What is your main musical direction?
Peedu Kass: This is the toughest question and the answer to that gets complicated. Obviously, it’s jazz. I think it is a mixture of contemporary jazz and it has some jazz piano trio tradition from great bands from previous century who have made the piano trio style very distinctive. Toomas, what else do we do besides the jazz?
Toomas Rull: It sounds Nordic.
Peedu Kass: Yes, we have a Nordic touch to it.
What do you mean about the Nordic sound? How would you describe it?
Peedu Kass: Long rests, long notes, plenty of echo, reverb, minimalism, and romantic, lyric melody lines. For me, this makes it Nordic. Also, Nordic sound has some sort of coldness in it, it’s not warm like a samba, it’s really cold, relaxing…
Toomas Rull: I can also add that if it’s expressive it’s different expressiveness, there is other kind of temperament, and it’s different.
Peedu Kass: The expression is very quiet and hidden in Nordic music.
What are the band’s plans for future?
Toomas Rull: I’m happy to say that we’re going on a concert tour in Australia in June and there is going to be some more gigs abroad – one in London, another in Brussels.
Peedu Kass: In the summer we’ll play in Estonia once, in Sõru Jazz festival, on the island of Hiiumaa. The autumn brings concerts in Helsinki, London and Brussels. As you can see we play mostly abroad. It’s a bit tricky to maintain the band only playing in Estonia, so you need to expand borders.
When you compare local audience and the audience abroad, how would you describe them? How it feels to play here and somewhere foreign?
Peedu Kass: It’s actually very different, the audience can be very different. I think the greatest audience we’ve had, was in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. After the first song three or four people stood up and screamed „Bravo!” The energy was so good that you really felt that you are there in the moment and everybody is with you.
You almost never know how it’s going to be. Last year we were in France for two concerts. We thought that the French are very emotional, very open-minded. The first show was in Marseille and people were very reserved, quiet, and really modest. The concert that we did in Northern France, people were absolutely different.
It’s really great when they interact, when they are with you in the music, it helps you as an artist while performing.
You both have great experience in playing jazz. What would you say to young musicians who are interested in jazz? How to achieve success and become one of the top musicians in Estonia?
Peedu Kass: Well, I’m too young to give any advice, so, Toomas, help!
Toomas Rull: But I don’t want to interrupt him as he had very nice answers.
Peedu Kass: (laughing) First of all, you need to focus on something. Really go deep into something you love and stick to it. If you stay in it the art you love, hopefully, sooner or later some results start to come. You shouldn’t really change direction too quickly and move from one genre to another. Also, you need to be strong in enduring failure, because if you fall down, you must stand up, When you want to achieve something, you need to know that you are going to fall a lot of times. The trickiest part of being a musician is to never stop learning which continues for the whole life. The longer you’ve been a musician the harder it is to notice your progress, because when you started to play music you could’ve practiced for ten minutes and noticed the progress you did, but when you’ve been playing for fifteen years or more, then you can practice for few months and not notice any difference. Then you really need to have a strong mindset to continue and keep going.
Please describe the Estonian jazz scene. What main tendencies are present compared to other countries?
Peedu Kass: Estonian jazz scene is certainly special if you compare to our neighbouring countries Latvia and Russia. It is not similar to any of those as it has more Nordic vibe. The musical language of jazz comes from Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic melancholic, romantic sounds. Also, we have an influence of rock and pop. We have many guitar players here, so it’s quite common to hear strong guitar influence in the scene.
The scene is certainly not so much orientated towards American tradition. Estonia hasn’t been too active about copying certain famous interpreters from across the Atlantic. I think Estonians have always been trying to figureout how to create their own mixture of all the influences that are around them.
Toomas Rull: The country is small, but the scene is large.
Also, new generation is very active!
Peedu Kass: Yes, I can’t keep track of it! New people are coming up and new bands are forming. It’s great, I’m really happy about the not keeping track fact. It is especially nice that the jazz audience is young which is helpful, because it means jazz has continuity.