Finnish jazz continues to refine the Arctic sound
by Petri Silas :: 2004
As its 80th birthday draws near, Finnish jazz is feeling better than ever. Challenged by the hungry young lions, the stalwarts of the scene continue refining the Arctic sound so recognizable and revered all over the world.
Juhani Aaltonen Trio
Photo: TUM Records
|An urban myth tells us that a group of Finnish-American musicians were responsible for bringing the only truly American artform to our shores aboard the M/S Andania in 1926. However, it wasn’t until much later that jazz really began its invasion over Finland.|
The original blueprints for Finnish jazz were drawn in the 1960s by musicians like drummer Edward Vesala, pianist Heikki Sarmanto, bass player Pekka Sarmanto and saxophonists Juhani Aaltonen, Eero Koivistoinen, and Seppo ”Paroni” Paakkunainen.
Internationally renowned individualists aside, Finland has also produced a wide array of team players throughout the years. This is largely due to education provided by institutes such as the Sibelius Academy Jazz Department. Another important contributor has been the UMO Jazz Orchestra
. Almost every one of our jazz greats has at point or another been a member of the only government-supported local big band.
Today, Finnish jazz is defined by strong soloists, crafty composers and unrelenting ensembles of varying sizes. The aforementioned pioneers are currently being given a run for their money by our most globally recognized jazz musicians such as Tapani Rinne
and Jukka Perko
, vibraphonist Severi Pyysalo
, guitarist Jarmo Saari
, and pianists Jarmo Savolainen
and Iiro Rantala
As regards the next generation, some of the most exciting Finnish jazz is created by the likes of U-Street All Stars
, Ilmiliekki Quartet
and the numerous groups revolving around the label Fiasko Records and its founders, pianist Kari Ikonen
and saxophonist Mikko Innanen
. Apart from the nu-soul –tinged Quintessence, all of these bands have decided to look at the jazz of the 1960's from a modern angle.