February 1998                          

"A taut front line": Ed Jones and Mika Mylläri tour Scotland and Finland

 by Tapani Lausti

The tour of Scotland by the Ed Jones Quintet has strengthened a new feature in the jazz band’s life: The Finnish trumpeter Mika Mylläri is rapidly becoming a regular – even if a long-distance -- member of the quintet.

Over lunch in a Soho club in London after the Scottish tour and shortly before his first visit to Finland, Jones reflected on the experiences of the last few months. He said that Mylläri has become acknowcd cover / ed jones: out hereledged by all the musicians in the band as a member who has made a distinct contribution to the quintet’s music.

In an interview in Scotland with the Glasgow Herald, Ed had this to say about Mika: "I’m really looking forward to having people hear him as well as having him playing in the band. Because the philosophy is for everyone to be themselves within that kind of hard bop format – and to swing as hard as possible."

In conversations in London Mylläri on his part expressed his own admiration of the high standard of musicianship in the band. He found Ed’s and the rhythm section’s playing absolutely thrilling.

cd cover / mika mylläri quintet: les pontsThis mutual affinity was obvious during the Scottish tour. In his review of the concert in Edinburgh for the Herald, Rob Adams wrote about the "responsiveness and elasticity of the rhythm section" – Jonathan Gee, piano, Geff Gascoyne, double bass, and Winston Clifford, drums. Adams continued: "Ever-attentive, they allowed Jones and trumpeter Mika Mylläri to explore every detail of the attractive funky blues Kick Start and the mobile tribute to Embankment Tube Station, Mind the Gap, with Jones building logical warm-toned figure upon figure towards a satisfying resolution, and Mylläri making great use of judicious pauses and compressed harmonics."

The tour started with one gig in London’s Jazz Café, where the band was joined by Ed’s old friend, the vibraphone player Max Beasley, better known now to the TV audiences as Tom Jones in the recent BBC costume drama series. The Guardian’s jazz critic John Fordham noticed how the "band clearly enjoys itself on stage, and intensifies that enjoyment by sympathetic listening and response as the show warms up, which is what makes the music occupy a different world to the solemn or formulaic tributes to the ‘hard bop’ style".

Fordham continued: "Jones and the young trumpeter Mika Mylläri make a taut front line, but the band wouldn’t have the same fire without its magnificent rhythm section of Jon Gee on piano, Geoff Gascoyne on bass and Winston Clifford on drums."

On to Finland and back

After the tour in Scotland, Jones was off to Finland. He was a special guest in a three-night festival in the new Aladdin jazz club in the centre of Helsinki. The festival, organised by the Association of Jazz Musicians, was called the 'Aladdin Special Jazz Week'. On the first evening Jones joined Mika Mylläri and alto saxophonist Jari Perkiömäki's new band  Way Out. On the second evening Ed played with Pekka Helin's Soul for Sale. The last evening was dedicated to hip-hop. Every evening drew a full house, and the hip-hop event saw people queue outside, too.

Ed also travelled to Pori where he participated in a workshop with the Pori Big Band, conducted by Mika. On his return to London Ed told Eagle Street that the youngest players were ten or eleven years old -- and they had no difficulty in playing Thad Jones's notoriously complicated big band charts.

Later in the spring of 1998, Mika Mylläri joined Ed Jones again in Britain for several gigs. There are also plans to record together. This year’s collaboration will include the Kainuu Jazz Festival in Finland (see Ed Jones Quintet's adventures in Finland) and several jazz festivals in Britain.

Mika's latest CD Les Ponts has begun to attract international attention. Richard Cook, the editor of The Penguin Guide To Jazz on CD, told Eagle Street that Les Ponts will be reviewed in the next edition of the guide. ASC Records -- the label Jones records with -- will distribute Les Ponts later this year in Britain.

The collaboration between the Ed Jones band and Mylläri began in September 1997 when Mika and his fellow Finn, trombonist Mikko Mustonen, turned the band into a sextet which performed several successful concerts in London and Oxford.

See also: 

You might also want to take a look at The Jonathan Gee Trio web pages.

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