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Catching Up With

Alexi Tuomarila: From Helsinki to Timbuktu

By Published: July 23, 2013
When Tuomarila talks about the trio playing regularly, he's referring to membership of a wide range of ensembles, including Eilertsen's own quintet—Tuomarila and Louhivuori both play on the quintet's SkyDive (Hubro Music, 2012). "The great thing about the trio is that we play together in different settings. We are always playing something. It helps the trio a lot. Even if we are in a quintet or a bigger group there will be moments when we can play as a trio, even if it's just one song or just a couple of minutes."

Tuomarila's other projects usually involve a trip beyond the boundaries of Finland. "As musicians we have to work as much as we can. It helps us as players because we always learn something new. Unfortunately there isn't enough of a scene in Finland at the moment—it has been better—so it's difficult to get enough work here. I have bands in different countries. It's nice to tour here and there. I play in a Belgian band, led by Lionel Beuvens, the drummer. We have a big European tour in November and December. Then I have a tour with the Belgian saxophonist Nicolas Kummert. He's releasing his album and we will tour in January and February. Stanko's Dark Eyes quintet will be together in December."

It's important for any jazz musician to stay busy, for economic as well as artistic reasons, but Tuomarila's keeping focused on the trio. "It's my priority at the moment. I want to get as much playing and new compositions as possible. That's my target for the next year. Basically, I want to write as much as possible. I don't usually think in terms of projects. Musicians are creative, they bring the music alive. Sometimes I feel a melody and I want to write it down. At other times I hear strings, for example, then I'm thinking terms of a special project."

When Tuomarila took his break from music, he went to Spain to work as a tennis coach. In his teens he was a promising player and he continues to enjoy the sport. The link between tennis and music seems worthy of exploration—how does the need to improvise on court, to predict the moves the other player will make and respond accordingly, affect the nature of improvisation on stage? Tuomarila acknowledges the possibility of this influence but doesn't explore the idea any further, preferring instead to briefly consider the impact of another of his favorite sports. "I also played soccer for a long time. For that, there's teamwork. The chemistry on the field is important but there's also space for individuality."

Now that he is almost 40 years old, Tuomarila's chance of sporting stardom is probably gone. However, in the contemporary jazz world he is still regularly referred to as a "young" artist—another four decades of creativity is well within the bounds of probability. Tuomarila's work takes him across Europe and beyond, but for the time being at least he prefers to call Finland his home. "I still live in Helsinki. It's still my home even though I work abroad so much. Sometimes I have a feeling that it's hard to get to the main parts of Europe from here but we do have planes. Sometimes I think I would like to live near Paris or Amsterdam."

Does this sense of isolation affect Finnish jazz? Is there a Finnish characteristic to the music? "I believe so. But I don't know what that characteristic is exactly. Maybe it's something melancholy, some kind of sadness—but in a beautiful way, a good way—a kind of longing."

Selected Discography

Alexi Tuomarila Trio, Seven Hills (Edition Records, 2013)

Mats Eilertsen, SkyDive (Hubro Music, 2011)

Tomasz Stańko Quintet, Dark Eyes (ECM, 2009)

Alexi Tuomarila Trio, Constellation, (Jazzaway, 2005)

Alexi Tuomarila Quartet, 02 (Warner Jazz, 2003)

Alexi Tuomarila Quartet, Voices Of Pohjola (Igloo Records, 2001)

Photo Credit
Tim Dickeson

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