April 2000

Kenny Wheeler featured in Polar Jazz

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 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, who will be playing together at Vortex Jazz Bar in May as part of the Polar Jazz 2000 project (see below), 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 (Silence Music - 0002), is exciting proof of jazz’s ability to create unexpected connections. The two musicians not only make age differences meaningless but their music also becomes a celebration of the universal communication of improvised music. The other young musicians on the CD are also examples of the high quality of Finnish jazz: Jan Simons on bass, Manuel Dunkel on tenor sax, Niklas Winter on guitar, and Jorma Ounaskari on drums. (The Jan Simons Band will be playing at Appleby Jazz Festival in July.)

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. Another exciting encounter.

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.

POLAR JAZZ 2000 is a new exciting and innovative series of concerts promoted by EJQ MUSIC in association with Vortex Jazz Bar and the Finnish Institute, taking place between 24-28 May in London.

The aim of these concerts is to highlight existing collaborative projects between a wide range of European Jazz Artists,and to promote this work for the first time in the UK. POLAR JAZZ 2000 will also initiate new projects and collaborations. The focus for this year's concerts are collaborations between Jazz Musicians from the UK and FINLAND.

Almost all of this work has so far only been heard in Finland. POLAR JAZZ 2000 offers the opportunity for this music to be heard for the first time in the UK. These concerts are a direct result of initiatives undertaken by Tapani Lausti (editor, Polarities) and the Finnish Institute in London, in bringing leading trumpeter/composer Mika Mylläri to the UK in 1997 to work with saxophonist Ed Jones.

The Project proved to be so successful that Jones asked Mylläri to join his Quintet, and the two musicians have been collaborating on a range of different projects ever since. Through their connection many other UK and Finnish jazz musicians have met, performed together, and have formed fruitful alliances.

EJQ MUSIC is committed to making POLAR JAZZ an annual event, and plans next year to bring even wider range of pan-European collaborations to the UK. The project is also supported by the Embassy of Finland in London, Jazz on 3 (BBC), Stora Enso and Active Ingredients.

See also:

Ed Jones Quintet's adventures in Finland

June 1998

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

February 1998

Ed Jones adds Finnish flavour to his jazz band by Chris Parker

January 1998

Finnish jazz benefits from more international contacts

January 1998


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