Baltic Transit -A Recording Review by Dana Paul Perna

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May 28, 2024 by Admin

Baltic Transit

A recording of an ensemble fronted by the Latvian-born, Boston-based flutist, Ilona Kudina, Baltic Transit, is quite an exceptional find. This album contains a variety of 8 selections that were recorded during August 2022 at the studios of Latvian Radio in Riga, Latvia, achieving its final mixing and mastering at Sabella Sound in Roslyn Heights, NY that October. Consisting of four Latvian Masters of their craft, namely Ilona Kudina on flute, Viktors Ritovs on piano, Artis Orubs on drums, vocalist Arta Jekabsone, and one Peruvian Grammy-recipient, their bassist Oscar Stagnaro, this artistic collective has come together to, as its title specifies, create the group Baltic Transit. Released on November 18, 2022, fully hitting the market by January 2023, this highly engaging CD deserves far greater attention that it has received, henceforth this vastly overdue review.

The variety of selections alluded to has to do with their world-fusion compositions that, specific for this release, were drawn from Latvian folk music, Latin-American rhythms, and Ilona’s voyage through flute sounds, thus creating their unique synthesis of ideas. (Since this release, Baltic Transit’s fusion of concepts, creativity, and collaboration can further be found in their live performances.)

The first three selections on this album are originals; the first two, Karma and Dedication are by Ms. Kudina, followed by one penned by Oscar Stagnaro titled Mariella’s Dream. The two tracks that follow those may mark the most familiar tunes to listeners, the first of those being Oasis by Bill O’Connell. Up to this point, we have not heard from their vocalist, but that changes once track five arrives in the guise of Oscar Stagnaro’s arrangement of My Favorite Things – yes, that beloved song from the Broadway musical The Sound of Music by Richard Rodgers. Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrics are not represented in this rendering since Arta Jekabsone effortlessly uses a vocalize-style, idiomatically matching the ensemble as if another instrument had joined their forces. After that, Ms. Jekabsone can be heard singing on tracks six and seven, which consist of Baltic Transit’s realizations of two Latgalian Folk-Songs; the first of them being Aiz azara augsti kolni in an arrangement by Artis Orubs, followed by Tuoli dzeivoj muna meiluo as arranged by Viktors Ritovs. The playlist concludes with La flor de la canela by Chabuca Granda in an arrangement by Oscar Stagnaro.

Wholly satisfying and meaningful of its own accord, this is truly a jazz release of contemporary vintage. In this case, there are elements present of NU Jazz heard right at the outset due to technological applications to Ms. Kudina’s flutistry, flowing into any number of beats and beat-fashions, skillfully driven by Artis Orubs’ precise percussion artistry. This is not to negate the bountiful contributions by pianist, Viktors Ritovs, and bassist, Oscar Stagnara, both of whom are featured at one point or another during this exceptionally well performed and presented disc’s 46 minutes of playing time. From start to finish, the audio quality is absolutely first rate, polished like a jewel. For those not familiar with her skills, Arta Jekabsone will appear as a fresh voice to anyone. Her pitch-perfect phrasing, crystal clear timbre, and musicality are characteristics one seldom encounters these days. While this does not contain your Grandfather’s version of My Favorite Things, it tunefully bounces along nonetheless with interesting substitute harmonies and contours. Everything on this recording is well structured and planned-out while never coming off as being sterile, nor analytical, possessing a groove and verve in its totality as presented thru Baltic Transit’s prodigious balanced energy.

This self-titled release is available through streaming services, but for those interested in obtaining the actual CD in a hardcopy form (yes, it does exist!!!!), you can find it at

From that base site, tracks can be purchased singularly, and you can also view videos corresponding to this release. Having stated all that, it marks an outstanding international debut release by which this new ensemble, Baltic Transit, has presented themselves to the global contemporary Jazz scene. It shall prove a wholly worthwhile investment for those who admire performance at the highest level of execution and entertainment.

Dana Paul Perna

May 2024

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