The big band was first founded in 1966 under the name “The Orchestra of TV and Radio of the Latvian SSR”. Later it was renamed “The Variety Orchestra of the Latvian TV and Radio”; the first bandleader was Ringolds Ore. Henceforward, such Latvian jazz legends as Alnis Zakis, Gunars Rozenbergs, and Maestro Raimonds Pauls have taken the lead in the orchestra. The only professional jazz big band in Latvia was liquidated in 1996.
After its revival in 2012, it operates under the wing of the state concert agency “Latvijas Koncerti”. The Latvian Radio Big Band has played a significant role in the history of jazz in Latvia. The big band’s legacy to Latvian culture is priceless – currently, the sound library of “Latvian Radio” holds over 9,000 recordings featuring the band. The creative driving force behind the orchestra till 2019 was the musician, producer and the artistic director Māris Briežkalns.
Since 2012, the big band has performed with such musical stars as James Morrison, Seamus Blake, Randy Brecker, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Marius Neset, Allan Harris, Jojo Mayer, Richard Bona, Michael Pipoquinha, Ruthie Foster, Diane Schuur, and many others.
The big band has been nominated twice for the Grand Music Award - the highest form of state recognition in the field of music in Latvia. The award was established in 1993. In 2016, the band was nominated for excellent performances in the year 2015, but in 2014, in the category “Concert of the Year” for the concert programme “Mare Balticum”, featuring Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison.
As a part of the Latvian centenary celebrations, the Latvian Radio Big Band was welcomed with sold-out venues standing ovations in two prestigious American concert halls - in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and in the Lincoln Center in New York, also joining Randy Brecker in the Jazz Baltica festival in Germany.
Each of the Latvian Radio Big Band performances is like an energy exchange between the musicians and the audience. Today the collective is an integral part of the Latvian culture scene and they are preparing new and interesting projects under the leadership of artistic director Kārlis Vanags.