Tampere Jazz Happening 2010: Day 1, November 4, 2010
Tampere Jazz Happening
November 4-7, 2010
Winter may be approaching in Tampere, Finland, and the days getting shorter, but that only provides a better reason to stay inside and check out some of the country's most forward-thinking jazz artists at Tampere Jazz Happening. Now in its 29th year, TJH is part of a trifecta of Tampere music festivals that also includes Tampere Biennale (and New Music event), and Tampere Vocal Music Festival, all managed, for the past six years, by Executive Director Minnakaisa Kuivalainen. Tampere may seem like an unlikely place for a small but world-class jazz festival that, for its 2010 edition, augments its predominantly Finnish roster with performances by bassist Dave Holland's Quintet, guitarist Marc Ribot, percussionist Hamid Drake and Norway's Jazzmob. But, as appears to be the case in so many European countries, there are clear advocates who look to fan the flames of a jazz tradition that's as likely to draw on its own culture for inspiration as it is the conventional American tradition.
With a strong Finnish line-up that ranges from up-and-comers like reed multi-instrumentalist Mikko Innanen and national jazz legends like saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen, to relatively new groups like Tampo, two shows on the last day stand out in particular: a performance by drummer Markku Ounaskari, pianist Samuli Mikkonen, and Norwegian trumpeter Per Jorgensen to celebrate the release of Kuára: Psalms and Folk Songs (ECM, 2010); and Sound & Fury, a tribute to the music of Edward Vesala, featuring alumni of the late drummer/composer's groupwith a group of Vesala alumni, including guitarist Jimi Sumen.
Tampere is, in relative terms, a small city, with a population of just over 200,000 and, as Kuivalainen described it, still essentially a one-street town, built around its main drag, Hameenkatu. Situated between two large lakeswith a small river running between them through the city center that, as far back as the late 1800s, provided electrical power to the regionit's a strange combination of old and new, though to date it's managed to avoid the proliferation of tall buildings that usually signal a city on an upward trajectory. Still, that's not to suggest that Tampere isn't a growing city, the third largest in Finland. It's a hotbed of theater, with a quick walk through town revealing a number of venues, including one that appears to have originally been some kind of manufacturing plant.
Manufacturing has, in fact, been one of Tampere's primary occupations, with textiles, paper and metal all representing strong commercial contributions to the country and its economy. Traveling through a large stone and brick gate that used to be closed to the public as it signaled the entrance to a large clothing plant, it's now a gateway to gentrified apartments, the Vapriikki Museum, and more. Despite being closed, clothing has represented such an important part of the city's history that an entire section of the museum is dedicated to shoes. There is also an exhibition highlighting some of the city's innovations, the most important being its invention of air cushioned vehicles in 1930, which led to the development of the hovercraft in later years.
The museum also shines a light on a more difficult time in the country's history, the civil war of 1918where, on April 6, a massacre of over 2,000 civilians in Tampere stood as the war's single biggest casualty eventand also the location of its biggest battle, where over 30,000 soldiers of the opposing Red and White factions fought in a conflict that remains controversial to this day.
The last three decades have represented significant change and growth in the region, and can be seen in the very foundation of Tampere Jazz Happening which, like its sister festivals, is largely funded by the municipality. While local funding of arts events is by no means unprecedented, the idea of such extensive involvement is, and it drives the festival's primary purview of promoting Finnish artists to the world, through the eyes and ears of both guests from abroad and reporting journalists who, this year, come from North America, France, England, Estonia, Norway, Russia and elsewhere.