Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pori Jazz 2010 and What I Saw There

It is time for another report from Pori Jazz, my favorite summer music festival! This fesival also happens to be the biggest public festival in Finland which is no wonder due to the nine-day duration. I spent four days at the Jazz and saw a couple of dozen acts most of which were free of charge. I linked most of the artists to their MySpaces or other sites with music samples. This time there are no pictures in the Jazz report... Sorry about that.

The Pori Jazz organization had, once again, booked many big artists that have nothing to do with jazz. John Fogerty, Toto and Tori Amos are great artists but not very jazzy, I think... But those non-jazz artists do bring the masses to the festival and help the festival to pay the bills. It may be possible that Toto performing at Pori Jazz actually benefits the jazz side of the festival. Another good thing is that there is always plenty of jazz too. The absolute coolest things this year was hearing Charlie Parker's symphony orchestra recordings played live at Pori theathre.

Jouni Hokkanen Quintet. Jouni Hokkanen's band was a good start for my Pori Jazz 2010. Contrabassist Hokkanen and his friends played some traditional jazz with swing and great instrumental solos. The material was original and the songs had fun names such as Paten ja Jussin kanssa kalassa (Pate and Jussi gone fishing) – a song that obviously was born while fishing with Pate and Jussi. This gig was a great introduction to the priciples of jazz, such as the structure of a typical jazz tune.

Conjunto Café. Not to be confused with the American band of the same name.. This was definitely the first time I heard salsa at Pori Jazz! Conjunto Café are the first and only salsa band from Satakunta area but they were very good. Good playing, nice singing.. I just loved those rhythms, they are very danceable. I don't hear stuff like that very often: music from Cuba and other Caribbean islands.

Ted Curson Ensemble. Ted Curson is famous for performing at every Pori Jazz festival – since 1966! He is also known for performances and recordings with Charles Mingus. This time he performed several concerts, some of them being free admission gigs. Curson is a trumpeteer who also sings. The performance was excellent and Curson singing stuff like Georgia on My Mind was really wonderful.

Bird with Strings! Pori Sinfonietta playing with alto saxophonist Jukka Perko's quartet was a mind-blowing experience. This concert was a recreation of some of the recordings that saxophone legend Charlie Parker made with a classical string section back in the late 1940s nad early 1950s. It was an impressive and extremely beautiful recreation. The symphony orchestra followed the original arrangements very closely while Jukka Perko added some features of his own style to Parker's original bebop saxophone work. The beauty of it all was that the jazz ensemble focused on maintaining the jazz swing while Perko soloed and the symphony orchestra played what they know best: playing in the style of classical music, sort of spicing the jazz with lovely symphonic elements. You can't really make a symphony orchestra swing so this is the best possible way to bring jazz and classical music together. I highly recommend checking out Charlie Parker's original recordings of these songs.

Ricky-Tick Big Band was all about a 15-piece group of young talented Finnish jazz musicians playing together and performing their original material, conducted by Valtteri Pöyhönen. These musicians are also in other smaller jazz ensembles (The Five Corners Quintet, Timo Lassy Band, Astro Can Caravan...) and many of them make recordings for Ricky-Tick Records. I enjoyed hearing modern big band jazz and original compositions, as well as seeing all these talented jazz musicians.

Dallapé. A legendary Finnish jazzy dance orchestra that has survived from the 1930s to the 2010s? That should be at least a bit interesting. Well, mostly it wasn't. I expected to hear something jazzy but ended up hearing new and old Finnish schlager songs performed by a big, classy orchestra with some quite interesting threatrical elements being brought to the stage... Dallapé was good at what it did on the stage, the lead singers (including Sami Saari) were good, the white suits were nice... But I would have wanted to hear more of that jazzy side. I mean... They were performing at Pori Jazz – why not play jazz?

Kadri Voorand feat. Jussi Kannaste. This year's Estonian guest was the lovely jazz singer and composer Kadri Voorand who performed with her band and Finnish saxophonist Jussi Kannaste. Voorand proved to be a talented songwriter and an excellent singer with a very distinctive voice – perfectly suitable for her jazz that contains elements from contemporary pop and latin jazz. Voorand brought sunshine, emotion, great songs and impressive scat singing to Pori Jazz.

Dalindeo is a talented combo of young Finnish jazz talents with all or at least most members also being in Ricky-Tick Big Band. Dalindeo's sound was exotic and fast-paced. Polyrhythms created by conga drums made the music even more danceable. The band characterizes its music as cinematic jazz. In my opinion, this music was very entertaining and energetic. I will definitely go see them again if I get the chance.

Tuure Kilpeläinen performed some nice singer/songwriter stuff accompanied by his band that really seemed to be in a mood for Latin American music. Kilpeläinen is a quite famous songwriter and solo artist from Finland. I have never really listened to his music properly but this gig was good and memorable. This was actually the second time I saw Kilpeläinen live – I also saw him last year in Tampere opening for Egotrippi. He performed alone with his acoustic guitar. Already then I decided that when it comes to his voice and singing style he is Finland's Mike Viola. I still agree.

Plop is a band lead by Mikko Innanen, a talented Finnish saxophonist who has been in many bands and projects. I saw Innanen's other band, Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio last fall at Tampere Jazz Happening. This gig was consistent with that performance. Innanen loves adding some totally weird stuff to his music and performances. At one point the musicians are playing sweet jazz melodies, the next moment you see the band playing unusual percussions and rather scratching their instruments than playing them... Based on what I have seen and heard I recommend Mikko Innanen's music to jazz experimentalists.

Myron & E with the Soul Investigators. This was the last performance I saw at the festival. The Soul Investigators are a soul/funk band founded in Finland 1998. The band is known to release lots of vinyl singles on Timmion Records. They previously worked with Nicole Willis and at the moment their vocal section is in the care of a California male vocal duo Myron & E. This Californian-Finnish soul band sounded amazing. With excellent playing and a soulful vocal section doing their job with expertise the result was people dancing all around. The Soul Investigators played really catchy melodic music that I hope to hear more.

So, it was a good festival, as usual. I already look forward to next summer. You always learn something new at Pori Jazz, and even when the jazz is downplayed, you get to hear lots of other interesting music. Now... It's time to listen to Charlie Parker!

Pori Jazz website

No comments: