Release date: 30 June 2023
Album premiere: 5 July 2023, Ljubljana jazz festival, Klub CD, 6 pm
Zavod Druga Godba is delighted to announce the release of niei, an album by Nina Virant and her band VIRA. The album will come out on the DruGod label, which has previously released four albums by Brina, as well as records by Kaja Draksler Acropolis Quintet, Godalike and Bossa de Novo, and the Bisergora children’s album.
Although niei will be her first independent release, Nina Virant has been active on the Slovenian music scene for several years. As a singer she has recently worked with Martin Martian and Žigan Krajnčan, although it is with VIRA that she is finally stepping fully into the spotlight and realising her full musical potential. Prior to this she was involved in the Ansambel za preužitek project, where she began collaborating with Veronika Kumar, but the latest phase of her musical journey only began to take proper shape when she partnered with Norwegian percussion wizard Gard Nilssen, well-known as the leader of Supersonic Orchestra, the Gard Nilssen Acoustic Trio and several other highly respected Norwegian ensembles.
Nina got to know Gard after she performed as a vocalist for his larger ensemble at the International Jazz Platform: Footprints Edition in the Polish city of Łódź, which also launched Veronika Kumar onto the international scene. Nina and Veronika have known each other since their student days in Amsterdam, where they both completed vocal studies at the Jazz Conservatory. However, niei is far from a jazz album; instead, it brings together the wide range of musical worlds that touch the writer’s heart and soul. Throughout the record we can hear a variety of vocal techniques and traditions, including Balkan chant, jazz, sacred singing, chanson, sung poetry and even echoes of the golden era of Slovenian pop.
But above all it is the polyphony of each song that stands out. The two voices, Nina’s and Veronika’s, complement each other at all times, everywhere in just the right proportion and with surprising leaps that provide the songs with multiple layers and make for a thrilling listening experience. Gard subtly stamps his own personality on those performances whose lyrics and polyphony require rhythm and dynamics. Two of the tracks (‘Brezčasju’ and ‘Znanka’) flow into the ones that follow, and it is at these two points that Nina’s confidence, mastery and sense of atmosphere particularly stand out.
As such, niei calls us from the past, bringing feelings of the art of everyday life, infused with doubts, confessions, courage and above all timelessness. Nina Virant dedicates the record to kindred spirits and to everyone who wishes to share their own experience of artistic freedom with the world around them. If we want to be ourselves, we must put our own originality out into the world.
Nina Virant: vocals, keyboards, composition and poetry
Veronika Kumar: vocals and guitar
Gard Nilssen: drums and percussion
Keyboards on ‘Nekoč, nekje spet’: Micah D. Edward Graves
Narrator on ‘S kričečim smehom’: Biserka Virant
ARRANGEMENTS: Nina Virant, Veronika Kumar, Gard Nilssen
PRODUCED BY: Veronika Kumar, Nina Virant
MIXED & MASTERED BY: Daniel Wold
RECORDED BY: Veronika Kumar and Miha Arnuš at Cosmosonic Studios, Ljubljana, February and March 2023
ARTWORK & DESIGN: Ula Virant, Nina Virant
ALBUM COVER: Ula Virant, Dizajnula
BIOGRAPHIES OF BAND MEMBERS:
GARD NILSSEN is a Norwegian percussionist, composer, producer and head of the Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity, Bushman’s Revenge, sPacemonKey, Amgala Temple, Ruby and Gard Nilssen Supersonic Orchestra projects. He is one of the most active and sought-after drummers on the current European jazz scene. Along with a rich set of recordings (over 70 albums, in fact), he has worked at various times with such luninaries as Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, Tomasz Stańko, Joshua Redman, Ambrose Akinmusire, Tigran Hamasyan, Susanne Sundfør, Chris Potter, Django Bates, Thomas Morgan, Mike Stern, Andy Sheppard, Eirik Hegdal, Ole Morten Vågan and Petter Eldh, among numerous others.
He gained his master’s degree in jazz from NTNU University of Jazz Music (2003–2009), where he studied drums under one of his personal heroes, Audun Kleive.
VERONIKA KUMAR is a singer, musician, composer and graduate of jazz vocals, and also holds a master’s degree in live electronics from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. In 2022 she received the Jazzon Award for best composition of the year. The year before that she successfully auditioned for the prestigious Netherlands Chamber Choir (NKK NXT), but was unable to take up her traineeship for personal reasons. She has subsequently completely focused on creating her own music. She has taken part in a variety of projects in Slovenia and abroad, and, as songwriter and leader, founded the bands MaLinE and K: in The Pickles. She has appeared on a number of festival stages (Ljubljana jazz festival 2019, Ramna jazz festival, Velenje jazz festival 2020, Godibodi, among others), and also worked in the theatre. As a vocalist and performer, she appeared in the family musical Kresna noč, and was involved in writing and sound effects on Bleščivka. In the last few years she has been creating her own music as VSA, and will shortly record a new album under that name.
NINA VIRANT is a singer, composer, performer, vocal coach and originator of the VIRA project. With her all-round musical expression, Nina has for a number of years had one foot at home in Slovenia and one in the Netherlands. She is active in a large range of different areas, exploring musical traditions, particularly Slavic, as well as pop, jazz, experimental genres, progressive rock and contemporary theatre. In 2019 she opened the 60th Ljubljana jazz festival with the LAS ensemble; together with a Russian musician and producer, she explored the stories and sounds of our common Slavic ancestors. In the same year she graduated in jazz singing from the prestigious Amsterdam Jazz Conservatory. In 2017, as project co-author, she recorded the LiLa album with ethno/experimental band Dvojina, and an EP in collaboration with the 12-piece international punk/live electronic/ progressive rock band Barmy FiveSeveN.
In Amsterdam she has worked, among others, with theatre director Ilaria Forciniti, and is part of the NIM Theatre contemporary theatre group. In autumn 2019 she appeared as a performer in the sold-out theatre show Possessions at Het Amsterdams Theaterhuis.
In September 2021 her Ansambel za preužitek project had its world premiere as part of the Sogodbe concert cycle at Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana. Last winter, Nina upgraded, expanded and refreshed the project, which provided the impetus for the creation of the VIRA ensemble. With an expanded team of top musicians, she will present niei, the debut release by the ensemble, at Ljubljana jazz festival on 5 July.