On the 14th of October, the audience at Kumu auditorium got to experience the enchanting realms of soul and jazz. Sofia Robina graced the stage, unveiling her 6th solo album, I Am Soul. The concert was a delightful blend of fresh melodies and timeless classics, making it an unforgettable evening for all who gathered in the auditorium.
Congratulations on your recent concert and the release of your 6th solo album, I Am Soul. How are you feeling after the concert?
It was a truly interesting experience for us. We’re more accustomed to performing at the Fotografiska stage, which has a club vibe and a different energy. The atmosphere at Kumu gave more of a classical concert feel, allowing the audience to really focus on the music and immerse themselves in it. This was important to us. It’s also inspiring to see how many people turned up, and the concert being sold out was truly a joy. It’s heartwarming to witness such a strong interest in jazz and soul music.
Did everything go according to plan?
In jazz, planning and improvisation go hand in hand. We have a setlist, but we always leave room for spontaneity. Jazz is about improvisation and the interplay between musicians. Sometimes, during a performance, one of the band members may feel like taking a longer solo, or we might make on-the-spot decisions about who takes the next solo. It’s not something you can plan in advance, and that’s part of the magic of jazz. The ability to feel each other and respond in the moment is what makes jazz performances unique.
It sounds like your band has a strong connection, which undoubtedly enhances your live shows. Can you tell us more about the process of bringing your new album to the stage?
It was a journey that required a lot of hard work and dedication. We had the opportunity to perform this program at the Nordische Klang festival in Germany last spring, which served as a testing ground for the material. We put in a lot of time and love to prepare for the performance at Autumn Jazz. The relief and joy we felt after the concert were immeasurable.
If I recall correctly, were you already showcasing a few tracks from your new album during the open concerts at Jazzkaar 2023?
Yes, and that led to the idea of presenting the entire album on Autumn Jazz, as Jazzkaar’s audience welcomed the performance with such warmth. It was truly heartwarming to see how people connected with the songs from the new album.
Performing at Autumn Jazz, where the focus is on Estonian artists, also brought a different dimension to our show. It’s a distinct honor to stand on the stage as a solo artist, knowing that you’re the highlight of the evening. I enjoy being part of jazz festivals and standing side by side with jazz musicians from around the world, but when the audience is there specifically to hear our music, that creates a very special atmosphere. Yesterday’s concert made me realize this.
What do you think about performing with your new album compared to your previous performances?
Performing with “I Am Soul” has been a distinct experience compared to our previous shows. The previous program had more of a funky and soulful vibe, while the new album, in my opinion, delves into deeper and more personal themes. This shift is palpable in the energy we bring to our concerts and, perhaps even more significantly, in the way the audience responds during the performance.
Your latest album seamlessly blends elements of jazz and soul, incorporates a pop sensibility, features gospel influences, and includes captivating covers of timeless classics such as Flora Purim’s Open Your Eyes You Can Fly and Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me, among others. Does it provide you with increased artistic freedom, enabling you to break free from the constraints of a particular jazz subgenre and explore a wide range of musical styles?
I’ve never limited myself in terms of musical style or genre. If you listen to my albums, you’ll notice the diversity in my music. I believe there’s so much to learn and explore in gospel, soul, and pop music. As a musician, I consider it a privilege to be able to express myself in different ways and experiment with various styles. Herbie Hancock (laureate of 1986 Academy Awards and 14 GRAMMY® Awards), a legendary figure in the world of jazz, once mentioned that he was collaborating with a hip-hop artist. This openness to new experiences and thinking outside the box is something we can all learn from.
For someone who is new to your music, which track from “I Am Soul” would you recommend as a starting point to get to know you better as an artist?
I would recommend starting with the single from the album, Great Life. My jazz and soul influences are reflected in this upbeat and positive song, as well as the freedom to improvise.
Finally, if you had one message to give to your Autumn Jazz audience, what would it be?
My message to the Autumn Jazz audience would be to go to the concerts. Jazzkaar offers an incredible opportunity to explore various styles and artists from around the world. Get a pass and attend as many concerts as you can. I’ve been attending Jazzkaar concerts for over 20 years, and I’m always amazed by the level of talent and the variety of performances. Live music offers an endless range of emotions, and it’s an experience like no other. Enjoy the music, the atmosphere, and the incredible diversity of artists that Jazzkaar brings to the stage.
Sofia Rubina “I Am Soul”
14th of October 2023, 6 pm at Kumu auditorium
Sofia Rubina-Hunter – vocal
Jaan Jaanson – guitar
Madis Muul – piano
Janno Trump – bass
Dmitri Nikolajevski – drums