Infinita

On Friday, March 6th, 2015 the Sellosali concert hall in Leppävaara, Espoo will have a very special visitor:
Infinita, my Finnish-Italian jazz quintet, will be performing music from our much-praised debut CD Time Continuum (2013).
The music is often aching, always lyrical and always executed with panache and finesse.’ This is, what All About Jazz-reviewer Anthony Shaw wrote in his four star review.

With all of the great projects I have going on at the moment (see Contemporary Collective and my Brotherhood), Infinita has a special place in my heart.
Infinita continues there, where we left it off with the Platypus Ensemble, when the band disintegrated in 2008.
The Platypus Ensemble and Infinita both are rooted in my 1970’s past, the time when I grew up in Germany listening to the fantastic records that were made for the ECM label: Keith Jarrett’s european quartet with Garbarek, Danielsson and Christensen, Ralph Towner and Oregon, John Abercrombie and Pat Metheny.

While my Contemporary Collective is conquering completely new territory between classical contemporary music, jazz and free improvisation, and while the Brotherhood may be seen as referring to the other great hero of mine, Miles Davis in the late sixties, beginning seventies, Infinita continues my quest for the ideals of chamber jazz, where I’m trying to compose material that allows for intimate conversations between the participating musicians.

This is the ‘Time Continuum’ that the title of our CD is referring to. I am building a bridge between some of the music I heard when I was a teenager, dreaming of becoming a musician, towards the music I composed when I toured Europe with my first great band, and on to the ongoing explorations of my own personal identity as a performer and composer.

The music of Infinita is characterized by a yearning, a longing quality, some call it the nordic melancholy.
Some of my favorite compositions are ‘Canciòn de consuelo’ or ‘Conversations in the ditch’, both are pieces we had played already with the Platypus Ensemble and I arranged and elaborated them for this quintet setting. I consider these pieces like jazz standards, they’re my own standards, by all standards simply beautiful compositions, and I couldn’t just let them sit there in the drawer and move on.

Of course there are also pieces written especially for Infinita and the particular sound of the musicians involved. ‘Dual Layers’ was written for our trumpeter Tero Saarti, conceived and performed at first as a big band composition, but then I adapted the piece for this quintet setting, with Tero kicking and seething his great solo lines.
For the warm and beautiful sound of Massimo Carboni’s tenor saxophone I wrote ‘Hanna‘ and ‘Night shift‘ (both tunes ended up in a film score I wrote around the same time) and I also adapted ‘Leonie’, another Platypus Ensemble staple tune.

The CD itself ‘Time Continuum’ is a kind of time and space warp. We rehearsed in Sardegna, Italy and played a few concerts there, then we recorded the CD in Helsinki and palyed a few concerts there, after which I went up to Oslo to mix the music with Jan Erik Kongshaug at his Rainbow Studio, the very same studio, where many ECM favorites of mine had been recorded.

‘Time Continuum’ also includes (for the first time ever on any of my records) a composition from outside of the band, and it’s no coincidence that it’s ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, my all-time favorite of the Beatles’ tunes.

All in all, it will be a great and beautiful evening, and I sincerely hope that you will be able to join us.

Welcome! Tervetuloa!

Dec 25 2014

Retro & Pro

First of all: Thank You!
Thank you for following this blog, visiting our concerts, buying our records – in general: for being interested in my music!

It’s been an amazing year in many respects, and at the same time an ambiguous one, too.
After enjoying the enormous privilege to receive a grant from the Finnish Arts Council for the previous three years, 2014 saw me at the mercy of the liberal market again.
I decided not to go back to teaching, but rather threw myself into the business side of music, even more than I had before.

The result was an incredibly productive year with two new records that received splendid reviews, two orchestral premieres, four active bands performing different repertoires all exclusively of my own music.
On the other hand, as the saying goes ‘The artist pays’, I could continue by saying: ‘I did so much work this year that soon I will be broke’.
I’m not complaining, I’m merely stating the fact that it ain’t easy these days to make a living as a creative musician, even when your work is well received.

Well, so much for the year gone by. Despite the challenges, I am deeply grateful for the beautiful response I’ve received after my solo concerts in Temppeliaukio Church or during the Contemporary Collective’s tour, for the glimpses of blissful presence with my fellow musicians, and I’m happy that some reviewers really understood what I am after.
I wouldn’t change any of this for a safer job in an office.

Which brings me to the prospects of the year to come, 2015.

I would have loved to record the Brotherhood and the Jazz Camerata, but until some great, wealthy jazz lover comes along to sponsor these fantastic projects (Hint, hint!), I will go with the most feasible and, in a way, also most logical idea: after thirteen years of playing solo piano improvisations regularly, once a week, in Temppeliaukio Church, I’ve decided to make another solo piano recording.
I will try to capture these magical moments at this fantastic instrument in this amazing space.
The church has gracefully given permission for me to spend two evenings in March at their glorious Steinway grand piano and currently I’m making a selection of Hymns and Finnish folk songs that could serve as points of departure for my improvisations.

Temppeliaukio Church

This might be a good moment for interaction with the audience and I’d like to encourage you to send me suggestions of pieces that you would enjoy to hear me play. If I know the song well enough, or I can get to know it well enough, to make a personal statement on it, it just might be a beautiful addition to the set I have in mind. (See the contact page for address details.)

On April 11th, I will perform the new program in an evening recital at the church.
Welcome to join the concert!
I will digress a little from the solo piano versions to be recorded, on the one hand of course, because I’m improvising and can never be sure of what ideas will come to my mind in the given moment, but also in respect to the choice of instruments. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, I have developed an interest in the use of electronica in recent years, so, on that evening I will include in the setup my Rhodes piano, effect pedals, a loop machine and other little gimmicks that are fun to use.

instruments setup

Other than that the year is wide open. The opera project sadly had to be postponed due to the lack of financial resources.
The Contemporary Collective will be on tour again in May, however, which is fantastic prospects, and another nice thing is the fact that Infinita will perform in Finland; so far, March 6th has been set at the Sellosali in Leppävaara. This is one beautiful band not to be missed!

Infinita

On that note, let me wish you a very happy new year 2015 and I’m looking forward to welcome you at one of my concerts.

Dec 22 2014

An arthouse jazzvideo

So, here it is, my last project for 2014 and a rewarding experience it was indeed:

The Contemporary Collective’s promo video was filmed in stylish black & white with a cool loft-type production design.
See it for yourself and comment right on the Vimeo page, if you feel like it.


We had a very easy time making it, everything seemed to fall into place, one idea led to the next.

There was no script, I just had this idea of a sixties’ ‘noir’ film in my mind and the location was to be a factory hall in eastern Helsinki.
Our camera man Pietari Peltola had just finished a feature film (He ovat paenneet / They have escaped) making great use of natural light, or rather the lack of it, so we only had a few lamps and went for deep contrast.
Given the limitations of the budget we decided to use our recent record ‘Outer Space’ as a soundtrack, no live sound, but rather a David Attenborough kind of voice-over, dubbed in later on.
So we slowed down or sped up the film sequences, creating a floating kind of feel to the movie.

Some bits I’m particularly happy with, like the idea of that still picture in the middle of the film. Is it a photograph? Has anybody seen the German epic ‘Heimat’ by director Edgar Reitz?
He had used that idea there, too.
Or the coincidence that when I had finished writing the voice-over text and went over to the cutting session, Pietari had just added some cloud footage from his archives before knowing that the title of the film was going to be ‘In Finnland weht ein frischer Jazzwind / There’s a fresh jazz breeze over Finland’.

Things fell into place and I’m very pleased with the result.
Thanks to the Music Finland organisation – without their financial support it would be impossible to even think of starting such a project.
Now a film is there, it’s done, it has happened – who knows where it will lead us.
Hopefully you like our little movie and hopefully some promoters get inspired to book the band.
This is a truly exceptional project.

As the end of the year approaches we had a little extra fun with the Contemporary Collective when making a promo video last weekend.
The talented young cinematographer Pietu Peltola, who has done the camera work in the recent Art house film and critical success ‘They have escaped / He ovat paenneet’, filmed us in a factory hall in eastern Helsinki.

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The film is being edited right now and next week I will add some voice-over in German, as the video is part of a campaign by the ‘Music Finland’ organization to promote Finnish music in the German speaking countries.

The GAS countries, Germany, Austria & Switzerland, as they are called here.

The beautiful black & white photography however should be fun enough to watch, even if you don’t understand the German language. It’ll be a GAS, GAS, GAS!

The film should be out by Christmas.
It’ll be on YouTube, where else, and I will put a link to it on the Videos page.

All the best to all of you for the Holiday Season!
Keep on eye on the gig calender and join us next year in one (or more) of our concerts.

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Toys

The concerts are over, the bills are paid, almost all paper work is done.
There are just a few more reports to be filed in order to get the support that has been granted.

It looks like we broke even this time, which is better than earlier tours that had been artistically just as successful, but economically needed to be considered as ‘investments’ into a better future.
It’s not an easy task to get six people to six concerts in various parts of the country.
But I still think it’s worth the trouble, particularly as it is my own music that I’m making the effort for.

So: Thank You, everybody!
All you people who came to listen, all you people who helped in organizing, all you people who decided to support this band by bestowing us grants!

We got some great feedback after the concerts.
One of the most memorable ones may have been that of an elderly lady who came up after the concert to say that ‘it wasn’t aggressive at all – very well balanced!’

Also some reviews were outright raving like the one in RondoClassic (in Finnish), where I got described as the ‘wizard behind the piano’. Not bad!

What became clear again, is that the artistic chemistry in this band works brilliantly. I am so grateful to my fellow musicians for pouring their soul into my music, for all the spontaneous interaction, for their enormous musicality.

Take an improvisation like the one we played in Tornio, only agreeing on two keys, creating fifteen minutes of sheer magic!
Listening to these improvisations afterwards, I often feel like it wasn’t me who did this.
I don’t even know where these ideas come from, I  didn’t even know I could play such stuff, I just happened to be there looking at my fingers moving, listening to the other musicians, listening to the textures that evolved right there in front of my ears and eyes.

It’s a strange profession we have.
One night we drove home by car after a gig, having played to about as many people in the audience as there were in the band. Still it seemed worth the while. I got a little worried about the finances and all, but what great listeners these guys had been!
And you never know what comes of it! Maybe these few guys will spread the word of an intense band who played fantastically!

So, exhausted but happy, slightly relieved, too, I’m back in the composer’s shed, preparing next year’s tour, writing new material, experimenting with some new effect pedals, practicing the Theremin. There’s always something to do.