Vortex Jazz Bar Programme, 2000

Polar Jazz 2000 at Vortex

By Tapani Lausti

Recently some people on the British jazz scene may have picked up signs of a new phenomenon. Some years ago, the Finnish trumpeter Mika Mylläri joined forces with one of London’s favourite saxophonists, Ed Jones. As a consequence of this creatively successful encounter, the two countries have become linked in a web of fruitful collaborative projects in modern jazz.

Let’s be honest about it. Yes, it is true that Finland has a thriving music scene, jazz included. But it could have been some other country. The thing about jazz is that, since its African-American origins, it has shot through much of modern concept of music. Consciously or unconsciously, jazz is for much of the world the sound that defines our modern life experience. It is a cliché by now, but jazz is a major influence on modern life sounds. It is also a genre of music that is capable of reacting to other influences without losing its earthiness based on the blues.

Kenny Wheeler and Samuli Mikkonen are good examples of this process. A Canadian who has worked all over the world but mainly lived in Britain, Wheeler has been a tremendous influence on the modern jazz scene everywhere. Mikkonen, as a young Finnish musician of exceptional talent, had the choice of a classical career or any other genre that would allow him creative gratification. He chose jazz but at the same time added to his musical thinking his experience as a native of a country with interesting linkages to western and eastern cultural influences.

Wheeler and Mikkonen have met before. They recorded together with the Jan Simons Band in Finland last year. The resulting CD, "Answer", is an exciting proof of jazz’s ability to create unexpected connections. The two musicians (with other young Finnish musicians: Jan Simons, bass, Manuel Dunkel, tenor sax, and Jorma Ounaskari, drums) not only make age differences meaningless but their music also becomes a celebration of the universal communication of improvised music.

At Vortex Jazz Bar, you will also be able to hear the two musicians who started it all. When Ed Jones and Mika Mylläri played for the first time together at Vortex in 1997, it was Mika who joined Ed’s band as a guest soloist (with trombonist Mikko Mustonen). Now it is Ed who is the special guest with Mika’s band. This is how exciting encounters happen in improvised music.

As a further development in Jones and Mylläri’s collaboration, Vortex (and the day after, the Bath International Jazz Festival) will offer you a special treat: "Burn", the 'drum n’ bass' extension of Ed and Mika’s unique affinity in musical thinking. This music raised the temperature at last year’s Pori Jazz Festival in Finland. The band combines Jones and Mylläri’s quintets into a mini big band. This amazing outfit offers an example of modern improvisation which draws on a very international feeling. This is the sort of music that could make a New York hip hop audience jump. Evidently, it can also do wonders for British and Finnish reserve.

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