Finland’s most prestigious jazz award gala took place on the 4th of November at Tampere Jazz Happening. Jazz Finland granted their Yrjö prize to trumpeter and bandleader Jukka Eskola, and acknowledged drummer and influencer Reiska Laine was given the Andania Award for his lifetime achievement in Finnish jazz.
This year’s laureate Jukka Eskola is a Finnish trumpet player who ranks among the most popular jazz artists in Finland. Eskola has made a remarkable career, and is widely considered as one of the key instrumentalists of his generation in Finnish jazz.
"Eskola’s trademark are his eloquent solos. He masters his instrument in such a way that his seemingly effortless playing seduces the listener to the vortex of the music. He has also brought jazz to wider audiences and promoted Finnish jazz on international stages, by playing extensively abroad, " praises Matti Lappalainen, a member of Jazz Finland’s Board, who make the award jury.
He has become known as the leader of the Jukka Eskola Quintet, Jukka Eskola Orquesta Bossa, and as a member of The Five Corners Quintet. Eskola’s five solo albums have stabilized his position at the forefront of internationally noted jazz from Finland. His latest musical endeavour is Jukka Eskola Soul Trio, whose second album "Steamy!" came out in 2019.
Eskola is also a busy player in the Finnish TV and recording scene. He has played in well over 200 albums and he is a staple in various TV live bands, such as the SuomiLove and Dances With Stars, as well as a section player and as soloist for established groups like UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra, Espoo Big Band and Ricky-Tick Big Band. Eskola has also led the artistic programming for the Elojazz festival in Oulu, Savoy JAZZFest in Helsinki and Oulu All Stars Big Band.
"It warms my heart, that the things that I’ve done as a jazz musician and in the Finnish jazz scene, are appreciated in such a way. Even though my work as a musician takes me constantly from one genre to another, jazz music lives in my heart and soul. That’s where I scoop everything to all my work. The Yrjö award is a great joy and honor to me! ," Eskola comments on his award.
The discretionary Andania Award is granted by Jazz Finland to a person or a group for long-term, perseverent work for promotion and establishment of Finnish jazz music and culture. This year the recipient was drummer, band leader, activist, MP and jazz influencer Reiska Laine, who has started his career in 1965, and ever since been the flag-bearer for Finnish jazz.
Yle Jazzradio, a long-running jazz programme of Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, also handed out their annual Varjo-Yrjö (”Shadow Yrjö”) award to Anne Etelätalo, Sibelius Academy’s long-time student advisor. Etelätalo’s career of over 30 years has been influential to several generations of jazz students.
The award ceremony took place at Tampere’s Pakkahuone on Friday, the 4th of November. The award ceremony and Jukka Eskola’s concert were a part of the official programme of Tampere Jazz Happening and Jazz Finland’s member assembly National Jazz Days.