Jazz has been played since the time of the first independent Republic of Lithuania (1918), and under the Soviet Union occupation from the 1940s, jazz in Lithuania went underground for more than a decade, as it was banned as pro-American music. However, it did not disappear - jazz music became a kind of resistance and an expression of a free spirit.

Neither long cultural isolation under the iron curtain, nor blockades, financial and other hardships at the rebirth of independent Lithuania seemed to halt the progress of jazz. On the contrary, jazz took root in the heart of Lithuanian culture. Musicians with academic training embraced it, and it came to be identified with a manifestation of outstanding creativity, a vehicle for even the most radical kinds of musical expression.

From 1971 the GTCh trio (Vyacheslav Ganelin, Vladimir Tarasov and Vladimir Chekasin) laid the foundations for the Lithuanian jazz school, and the creative principles they formed are still being developed by Lithuanian jazz musicians. Jazz and improvised music occupy a significant position in the country's cultural spectrum and are perceived on an equal footing with other art forms, thereby enabling jazz to achieve a broad level of public acceptance. Another characteristic of the scene is the recently formed and actively working movements and collectives of young musicians, which contribute to an extremely vibrant national jazz scene.

For many years, Lithuanian jazz creators have been exploring the idea of weaving the traditions of Lithuanian folk music into jazz. Another bright trend of today's Lithuanian jazz is the connection between jazz and art music.

The current Lithuanian jazz scene is as wide and rich as ever – wuth six international jazz festivals and eight smaller scale local festivals held in various towns across Lithuania. The vitality of Lithuanian jazz in cities is supported year round by over 10 active music and jazz clubs. The main Lithuanian open air festivals each attract over 20,000 people per annum and the number of visitors to the main indoor festivals reaches between five and seven thousand. The vast majority of concerts, held by the main Lithuanian jazz festivals, are recorded by Lithuanian National Radio and Television and are later broadcast on TV and radio. Main media portals, cultural newspapers and publications cover the festivals and jazz music tendencies taking place in Lithuania.

Guide compiled by EJN member Vilnius Jazz