Jazz Finland has awarded drummer Jussi Lehtonen with the Yrjö jazz prize. The award was presented on Friday 2 November at Tampere Jazz Happening.
The Yrjö Prize, launched in 1967, is an annual jazz award given to a Finnish jazz artist in acknowledgement of their outstanding contribution to Finnish jazz music. This year’s winner is Jussi Lehtonen (b. 1977), an internationally acclaimed drummer, composer, arranger, band leader and educator, who released their fourth solo album just a day before the Yrjö ceremonies. The Jazz Finland board describes Lehtonen as a hard-working and ambitious professional.
Lehtonen has studied at the Helsinki-based Pop & Jazz Conservatory, and from there he continued to Sibelius Academy in 2000. Lehtonen has performed actively throughout his career, alongside the Finnish greats like pianist Jukkis Uotila and saxophonist Eero Koivistoinen, and top international names such as Dave Liebman and Randy Brecker. Lehtonen's debut album Firstborn was released in 2009 and his latest, Jussi Lehtonen Quartet – Live at Koko Jazz Club (Koko Records) came out in November 2018. Jussi Lehtonen has also taught jazz rhythmics and ensemble work at Pop & Jazz Conservatory.
Jazz Radio, a long-running jazz programme of Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, also handed out their annual Varjo-Yrjö (”Shadow Yrjö”) award to producer Raisa Siivola, for 15 years’ work in producing and promoting Finnish live jazz culture.