April temperatures will fluctuate dramatically when it comes to Finnish music in Bremen, as Joonas Haavisto Trio and Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkesteri play jazzahead! showcase gigs.
Pianist Haavisto’s music is often seen as having a Scandinavian coolness, while saxophonist Lyytinen’s band rips it up with a fiery passion. These groups, made up of some of the most respected Finnish jazz musicians of their generation, perform at the European Jazz Meeting along with 16 other groups from around the continent.
Joonas Haavisto Trio: Seamlessly Unified Musicianship
This is Haavisto’s first jazzahead! appearance, but his trio has long been active internationally. The group’s latest album Oku (2016) was released in Japan, Germany, Austria and Switzerland as well as throughout the Nordic region. Japanese jazz fans in particular have embraced the trio. In May the group plays a five-concert tour of Japan to celebrate the release of its forthcoming album Gradation. Haavisto is pleased with the Japanese response, although he was somewhat taken aback by the audiences’ silence during his first shows there.
I’m proud that we’ve played together for more than a decade and released three albums. That’s rare these days – Joonas Haavisto
“Most of the gigs have been in concert halls, where you really sense the Japanese audience’s silence before the performance even begins. The silence even felt a bit oppressive at first, until I realised that the audience was just concentrating on the music. The reception has been extremely positive and we can tell from the album sales and queues for autographs afterwards that they’ve really enjoyed our music.”
The trio’s spacious music is straightforward and even traditional, yet distinctive. Haavisto, bassist Antti Lötjönen and drummer Joonas Riippa have played together for a long time, as can be heard in their seamlessly unified musicianship, both on record and live.
“I’m extremely proud that we’ve played together for more than a decade and released three albums. That’s rare these days. Our playing together has certainly become liberated. And as a composer, I’ve learned how to see more clearly what I want to say with my music. Antti and Joonas are top-notch on their own instruments, and I always learn something new when I play with them.”
Besides the trio, Haavisto plays solo and with various other line-ups. Last spring the pianist earned another feather in his cap as he was selected to join Steinway’s International Artist Roster.
Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkesteri: Back to the Chamber
Lyytinen, meanwhile, is already a veteran of jazzahead!, even though his Magnetia Orkesteri is a relatively new line-up. Lyytinen has played the festival with his other groups Elifantree, Raoul Björkenheim eCsTaSy and Defekt. Founded in 2015, Magnetia brings Lyytinen’s compositions, better known as electroacoustic explorations, into a more organic musical environment with top-flight musicians. The band’s other members are trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, bassist Eero Tikkanen and drummer Mika Kallio. The quartet playfully romps along a scale that ranges from contemplative avant-garde pieces to Balkan-tinged uproar.
“At some point I noticed that I only had groups with electric instruments,” he says.
“I started to miss playing a sort of acoustic chamber music. It was easy to pick the players – I knew all their characteristic sounds and styles. They all rely heavily on improvisation and are very liberated musicians who keep their ears open.”
Our groups draw on very different traditions, but you can hear a Finnish element in them – Pauli Lyytinen
At the moment, Lyytinen has plenty of irons in the fire. Elifantree’s fourth album Anemone has just been released, and he is working on new material for Magnetia as well as a major commission for this summer’s Südtirol Jazzfestival in Italy. As the festival’s artist in residence, Lyytinen is composing a work for the opening concert, to be played by a 20-piece ensemble featuring musicians from eight countries.
“Hearing these two groups is of course just barely scratching the surface of the Finnish jazz scene,” says Lyytinen.
“Our groups draw on very different traditions, but you can hear a Finnish element in them, each in their own way.”
On stage at Jazzahead:
Joonas Haavisto Trio on Friday 20 April at 17:30, Hall 7.2
Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkesteri on Friday 20 April at 23:30, Hall 7.1