Preview: Finnish jazz festivals




Summer festivals in Finland from 28 July feature a range of acts from Laura Mvula to Kamasi Washington, plus a hotfoot jazz marathon, says Wif Stenger

Three Finnish baritone saxophonists recently featured in Downbeat's 2016 Rising Star Baritone Sax poll. All three – Linda Fredriksson, Mikko Innanen (pictured right) and Timo Lassy – are busy at late-summer festivals at home.

Fearless explorer Innanen and more traditionalist Lassy are headliners at Raahe Jazz on the Beach (28-30 July), where Linda Fredriksson’s band Mopo played a pre-festival gig.

Multi-reed player Pauli Lyytinen of the eccentric Elifantree spearheads his new band, including a free open-air rehearsal. This friendly, small-scale festival also offers free lectures and performances at a local library. French group Impérial Orphéon plays a show for kids, while Italian actress-singer Maria Laura Baccarini vamps it up with violinist Régis Huby.

Helsinki series

Spinning vinyl in Raahe are DJs from Helsinki’s We Jazz collective. Back in Helsinki, the group is staging a Sunday-afternoon summer series on the island of Lonna. Fredriksson’s punk-jazz trio Mopo appears, as does scat singer supreme Aili Ikonen (pictured below left by Tero Ahonen) and the playful young Bowman Trio, named after a mythological explorer who purportedly climbed Everest with Hillary.

Another summer series in the capital is Jazz-Espa, which stages free park shows daily until 5 August. The stellar line-up includes Ikonen, trumpeter Kalevi Louhivuori, pianists Aki Rissanen and Joonas Haavisto and youthful, street-smart big band Mikko Sarvanne Hip Company, plus the stolid UMO Jazz Orchestra. Also performing is Icelandic guitarist Sigurdur Rögnvaldsson, who guested with supergroup Oddarrang in the UK last spring.

Capping the series is the annual free JazzPiknik (7 August), now for the first time at the new Allas Sea Pool by Helsinki harbour and also featuring We Jazz DJs. On the bill: Mopo, trumpeter Jukka Eskola’s easygoing new Soul Trio, as well as singer Nina Mya, who's just released a strong, soulful third album featuring Eskola.

In the Flow

Helsinki’s Flow Festival (12-14 August) offers a dizzying array of electronic, rock, world and experimental music. This year’s jazz headliner is saxophonist Kamasi Washington, along with bassist Thundercat, a fellow stalwart of LA’s hip-hop/jazz hotbed. Also mixing rap with jazz is the wildly popular Ricky-Tick Big Band, accompanied by a circus troupe. Norway sends its Young Jazz Musicians of the Year, the free-and-funky Megalodon Collective.

Others with a toe in the jazz pool include Birmingham’s Laura Mvula, New York ambient pioneer Laraaji, Helsinki folk-improv outfit Okra Playground and Nigerian drummer Tony Allen. He appears with US soul vocalist Nicole Willis and her Finnish husband, multi-instrumentalist Jimi Tenor.

More Finnish jazz names include Mopo (pictured right), trumpeters Eskola and Louhivuori, the latter with his new cool jazz-inspired quintet and the similarly sourced Teddy’s West Coasters, led by Eskola drummer Teppo Mäkynen. Drummer Tatu Rönkkö, who just left Elifantree, shows off two new acts.

Island run

Elifantree’s vocalist extraordinaire, Anni Elif, sings at Viapori Jazz (23-27 August) on Helsinki’s island fortress of Suomenlinna. Viapori is a mostly-domestic affair but features a "Foreign Friends" evening with the Swedish/Turkish Elif, German keyboardist Sid Hille and Ethiopian-born percussionist/bassist Mamba Assefa – all stalwarts of the Finnish scene.

Also on hand are Finland’s two best-known trumpeters. Verneri Pohjola plays in a tribute to his late father, former Mike Oldfield bassist Pekka Pohjola. Eskola is back with his Soul Trio, this time featuring guest baritonist Lassy, a fellow graduate of the Five Corners Quintet.

In the season's quirkiest gig, drummer Sami Nummela leads a running event. His trio and volunteers will run a marathon – 33⅓ revolutions on a short track – interspersed with hotfoot jazz.

For further information go to the websites listed below:

Raahe Jazz On The Beach
We Jazz x Lonna
Jazz-Espa
Flow Festival
Viapori Jazz


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