The Jaz Symphony
(1214 Productions)


As the owner of Breakthru’ Records back in the 1980s, I was fortunate to work with some of the greatest Finnish and Scandinavian jazz-rock guitarists of the 20th century including genius composers such as Pekka Pohjola, Janne Schaffer, Peter Bryngelsson and more. That spirit of classic progressive European fusion music continues onwards with the 2011 CD/DVD release of The Jaz Symphony by guitarist Endel Rivers. Hailing originally from Estonia, Endel landed in Australia and the result of his hard musical work is astounding. A CD/DVD package, Jaz Symphony features studio recordings made by Endel between 2006 and 2009 at Palmstudios in Australia that were later mixed and edited with live recordings made during a 2009 Estonian tour. Featuring Endel on electric guitar—backed up by like minded musicians including Raul Vaigla (bass), Grant Collins (drums) and Leanne Lai (keyboards)—the CD half of the Jaz Symphony set is great with Endel paving a modern progressive instrumental jazz-rock fusion sound, not unlike (in places) the ‘90s recordings from the now late great Finnish jazz-rock maestro Pekka Pohjola. Interesting to note that Endel was actually in contact with Pohjola about future collaborations before he tragically passed away at the end of 2008. In addition to the progressive guitar fusion elements in play here, the CD also displays a neo-metal hard rock (but not quite shredding) guitar sound ala metal guitar kings like Yngwie Malmsteen and Alex Masi. Either way—from progressive symphonic rock to hard rock and back again—the music is quite exciting in places. Overall, Jaz Symphony defines Endel Rivers as a guitarist / composer worth keeping your eyes on. www.EndelRivers.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with

mwe3: Endel, congratulations on the Jaz Symphony CD/DVD, it’s excellent. What were some of your inspirations behind the composing and performing?

ENDEL RIVERS: Nearly year after releasing the second Hardbite album, I felt it was time to make a turn...to explore some new avenues of music. I decided to try piano, the first instrument I learned, instead of that relative comfort when jamming/composing on guitar...when you start repeating yourself, over and over again. The plan was not to make any plans, just to play spontaneously...anything that comes up without thinking and imagining that I'm a great pianist! (laughter)

After weeks of playing, I started to listen back everything that was recorded. Most of it was totally nonsensical, yet occasionally quite interesting, having some great compositional potential. I discovered that these recordings were in a way similar to our DNA, most of which is a random data, yet with some great potential, if properly managed and composed in a lifetime.

I realized that this "random data" works like an ecosystem, which seeks a way to be logically structured, so that it could be enjoyed in a form of dynamic cycles, composed into a flow, out of chaos.

So the first step was to select some potential bits, and to see if they can somehow be structured. That's how the whole work on the Jaz Symphony got started.

After structuring everything that was structurable, the bits I liked, coming out straight from subconscious, I started to add some "very conscious" composing, so that a blend of both worlds, chaotic out of subconscious, and structural out of conscious, could form a composition. All work was done on piano, no other instruments were involved.

After all piano parts were composed, I started working on drums, to get some percussive feels to it, to accompany the mostly triplet / six-ish flow I had. And after that, when all piano and drum parts were composed, I took my guitar, to see what else is there, and because of that, quite a few piano bits were altered, extended or recomposed, to make some room for soloing. Then came bass, to add richness to the low end.

The best compliment in regards to the Jaz Symphony was made in 2009, during Estonian tour, when after one of our concerts a fan from England said: ‘thank you for showing us the future.’ That made me laugh! Although it may still be early to say, the reaction to the Jaz Symphony album has been very warm.

mwe3: Who are the musicians who perform with you on the Jaz Symphony CD/DVD?

ER: The idea to create the Jaz Symphony was partly inspired by a young 16 year old girl, Leanne Lai, when I saw her playing, and who I recorded with a local heavy metal band in my studio in 2006, and who three years later joined the project for live performances. She is the most talented, yet not necessarily the best musician I have ever met. Unfortunately, for music lovers, she decided to continue on graphic design.

I didn't have to look for a right drummer too long when I saw Grant Collins performing solo in Geelong, Victoria, on a mega drum kit, for one and a half hours without any backing tracks, I knew straight away that's the man! Amazing intelligence and discipline on building up a great drum show, enjoyable from the very first minute to the last.

There was also a sad chapter in regards to the project. Pekka Pohjola, one of all time greats in progressive rock, who I asked to join us on bass, died one and a half months before our first concert. He was replaced by Raul Vaigla, one of the busiest session players / music teachers in Estonia.

mwe3: Where do you live and can you say something about your early musical training on guitar? How do you compare your love of rock fusion guitar instrumental music with your classical training?

ER: I've been living in Melbourne, Australia since 1989. I started with my classical piano training when I was 7, in Estonia. When around 11, circa 1970, I "discovered" guitar; an old 7 string Russian acoustic left in attic. Soon I managed to learn a lot, from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin, and then, step by step, from Jeff Beck to Yes, Genesis and other great ‘70s and ‘80s progressive bands. Gradually I felt more comfortable playing guitar than piano. After getting a six string electric, my first prog rock compositions were born.

In 1983 I was invited to play lead guitar in one of the most well known prog rock bands in the former USSR called Magnetic Band (Gunnar Graps Group). That was a big change from small pubs and clubs to big halls in Moscow and other cities, from TV and radio stations to soccer stadium concerts. Yet the band was banned eventually by KGB, after an article in a UK magazine was released about a "western style band" in USSR. Thanks to some friends in USA and Israel, I managed to leave (I was actually expelled from USSR) with my wife and daughter, without any money and documents, ending up in Austria, then later migrated to Australia. Yet I'm thankful that I was given a chance in life to learn about the "red flag", many have no idea about.

mwe3: You mentioned possibly working with Pekka Pohjola in the future. How would you describe Pohjola’s musical influence on your music?

ER: I discovered Pekka Pohjola's music back in ‘70s, when he came up with some amazing prog-rock projects in Finland and Sweden, also played bass for one of my favorites, Mike Oldfield. That was the reason I contacted him, asking to join the Jaz Symphony. He liked the material, and was quite keen to work on its future developments. But then came the tragic news...

My biggest musical influences in prog-rock have been Yes with Trevor Rabin, Phil Collins with Genesis, Chick Corea, Supertramp, and recent influences influences, then Jordan Rudess, solo.

Yet I have to agree with one of my friends, a well known conductor, who once said: there are two kind of composers - J.S. Bach, and the rest.

mwe3: What guitars do you play mostly and what electric and acoustic guitars are you featuring on the Jaz Symphony CD/DVD set?

ER: Nearly eighty percent of the time a PRS McCarty. It’s a model he designed just before he died. Then a Godin LG model, a Fender 1973 Stratocaster and a Gibson Les Paul for some very specific bits. Ibanez when whammy is needed, Gibson acoustic for some Latin-like feels.

mwe3: Are you still working with the Hardbite group and how would you compare Hardbite with the sound of your Jaz Symphony CD?

ER: The guys on the Hardbite album; Allan Zavod on keys, Glenn Roche on drums and Evan Harris on bass are all fantastic musicians and busy working on their projects. But the Jaz Symphony, which is a fully scored composition, is quite different to what was the Hardbite project, which was best suited for fusion oriented players and improvisation. Therefore all musicians I invited to play on Jaz Symphony are classically trained, with some excellent sheet music reading skills, although Allan Zavod is one of the best readers money can buy. (laughter)

mwe3: What are your upcoming plans for 2011 and beyond?

ER: Over the past 23 years, apart of having fantastic time with my wife and two daughters, I have been also trying hard to get good (not perfect) in three directions...music, art and science. My musical journey has been so far quite rewarding, as I have won a few awards in contemporary music, while also being a finalist in a classical music competition. Art is getting better, while working on my new, and first theatrical concert production: Scarab - Portrait of a Man, based on ancient Egyptian mythology. By now, I hope my scientific research, which is based on adding an absolute to Einstein's theory of relativity, may become rewarding one day, when all that remains "beyond physics" is suddenly realized.

There are many musicians I know who are very much into science, philosophy, esoterica, religions, mythology, astrology...you name it, which generate different feels and ideas that all music and arts are coming from.

For all the fans who seek an "expansion beyond the mainstream", I would suggest to check out my research on the subject at www.EndelRivers.com


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