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Ed Jones adds Finnish flavour to his jazz band

By Chris Parker
Illustration by Peter Till: Jazz

Anyone who has been exposed to the music of the New Music Orchestra (UMO), Edward Vesala or Seppo Paakkunainen -- to pluck just three names almost at random from the air -- or who has visited Finland’s most famous jazz festival at Pori, will already be aware that Finland’s jazz scene is as rich and vibrant as any found throughout Europe. Finnish musicians, however, are relatively rare visitors to the UK, so the news that two top-flight players -- trumpeter Mika Mylläri and trombonist Mikko Mustonen -- were to join one of the UK´s most popular young saxophonists, Ed Jones, on a short tour with his rhythm section (pianist Jonathan Gee, bassist Geoff Gascoyne and drummer Winston Clifford) attracted a healthy and expectant crowd to London’s Festival Hall foyer for a Sunday lunchtime concert on 14 September 1997.

The jazz sextet with a three-horn front line is probably most frequently associated with the early 1960s aggregations run by the likes of Art Blakey and J.J. Johnson, their repertoire comprising brisk hard bop or soul jazz with its roots in the blues and gospel, but played with all the assurance, sophistication and virtuosity expected from post-bop jazz. This particular sextet, though, while instantly recognisable as a direct descendant of such bands, drew heavily on subsequent jazz developments, whether playing band originals or applying its neat, airy but consistently vigorous sound to compositions by modern masters such as Wayne Shorter or Andrew Hill.

Jones is justly celebrated for his slow building, cogent but impassioned tenor solos, so his juxtaposition with players of the poise and elegance of Mylläri and Mustonen was a telling one in which brio and grace were intriguingly balanced; one seventy-minute set, however, merely served to whet the appetite, so it is to be hoped that this is to be the forerunner of many such collaborations between UK and Finnish jazz musicians. This collaboration had a good beginning with the appearance of the aforementioned UMO (whose trombone section includes Mustonen) with British soloists Django Bates and John Surman at the Barbican in November 1997.

Chris Parker is the jazz critic of The Times.    

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

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