by Petri Silas :: 2003
This composer/pianist is definitely a cornerstone of Nordic jazz and also one of the most internationally known Finnish jazzmen. Heikki Sarmanto
comes from a musical home and has therefore since the very early years of his life been able to surround himself with all things music-related. He began his formal studies at the Sibelius Academy in 1962 with Joonas Kokkonen
as his composition and Martti Paavola
as his piano teacher.
In 1968 Sarmanto was the first ever Finnish scholar to enroll at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. During his stay at Berklee the piano wizard embellished his abilities with lessons from Herb Pomeroy
, Charlie Mariano
and Margaret Chaloff
With the basic lessons under his belt Heikki decided to take the difficult route on his way to becoming a composer. He wished to free himself of tradition-bound categories and proceeded by completing his studies without a formal teacher. With Sarmanto's listing of orchestral works starting in 1967, it is safe to assume that he didn't waste any time in commencing his career.
Even Heikki's more conventional works underline the composer's will to make music in his own way — e the medium a ballet, a full-scale symphonic work, a chamber piece or a jazz tune. His field of inspiration is large with a nod to the religious here and the historical there. Heikki Sarmanto made no easy choice in deciding to abandon the formal studies, but the end results justify the means many times over. These ideals are audible also in his work as an arranger.
One very essential part of Sarmanto's method is his close working relationship with the musicians he writes for. The composer knows the style of his bassist brother Pekka
or the sax giant Juhani Aaltonen
through and through, and this makes it quite natural for him to tailor his pieces to the individual talents and needs.
As a pianist Heikki is at least as original as a composer. He has performed all over the globe, especially in the USA where he has conducted some of his biggest works: 'New Hope Jazz Mass' and 'Perfect Harmony'. Sarmanto has spent a lot of his time in the States immersing himself in the origins of jazz. His latest big scale composition is the critically acclaimed “jazz symphony” Hearts for symphony orchestra and jazz group, premiered in 1994. One of the composer's most recent works is the jazz opera 'Manon'. Sarmanto has received a multitude of prizes and awards both locally and internationally. In1998 he was appointed as the Artistic Director of UMO.
One of Heikki Sarmanto's fetishes through the years has been poetry. He has successfully composed music to the writings of a variety of classic Finnish poets like Eino Leino
and Lauri Viita
. This inclination derives from his interest towards language and the spoken word. Sarmanto seems to have an excellent talent for combining music and text, and by this virtue alone deserves the journalist-coined term “national-romantic jazz-lyricist”.
In 2003 Sarmanto finished his big-scale album project with leading Brazilian musicians with leading Brazilian musicians like the acclaimed vocalist Claudya de Oliveira
. 'Horizons - A Lua Luará' is arranged by Juarez Moreira
Heikki Sarmanto Home Page