Can anyone just decide, on a whim, to take up an instrument and simply become a working musician anymore? That's precisely what Juhani Aaltonen did as an eighteen year-old living in the town of Inkeroinen, in central Finland back in the early 1950s. Apart from a year of study at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and a semester at Berklee (where he worked with Herb Pomeroy), Aaltonen is that rarest of all birds: a self-taught master musician who learned directly from his peers during rehearsals, jam sessions, and on the bandstand. He's had an amazing career, collaborating with virtually everyone ...read more
Preeminent Finnish saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen is approaching his 80th birthday and continues to meld his technical artistry with fresh concepts. This album features compositions by composer and bassist Antti Hytti, who penned many of these works for movies and short films, featuring the saxophonist performing on the originals. Aaltonen alternates between tenor sax and flutes. With his noteworthy associates, including the dual bass attack of Ulf Krokfors (right channel) and Ville Herrala (left channel), the music takes on a broader and perhaps more fluid bottom than what would be considered the norm. Thus, many of these works are ...read more
Helsinki-based TUM Records, launched in 2003, promotes more experienced musicians whose work is not favored by commercial trends of our time." The label is especially supportive of the freer end of jazz's spectrum, offering up albums like Kolibri by Finish pianist/harpist Iro Haarla, violinist Billy Bang's Da Bang, and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's Occupy the World, to name just a few of the label's adventurous 2013 offerings. Finnish saxophonist/flutist Juhani Aaltonen (b. 1935) , who cites saxophonist John Coltrane as a seminal influence--though he has developed his own very distinctive style--is one of those experienced musicians who doesn't ...read more
The splendid music on Conversations is as close to the celebration of Impressionism in modern music as possible. It is true that saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen and pianist Heikki Sarmanto create epic narratives here, and also true that both act as characters in those narratives. Of greater significance, however, is the extraordinary emotion of these musical stories, facilitated by sublime technique and use of dynamics by both musicians. Aaltonen crowns his playing with broad glissandi in longlegato passages marked by staggeringly brilliant and complicated cadenzas. He employs soft dissonances uttered or sung with towering, filigreed figures that show a reverent respect ...read more
Saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen and pianist Heikki Sarmanto are two icons of the Finnish jazz scene. Collaborating constantly for almost fifty years in myriad outfits and formats, despite many moves in their busy musical careers, they have never recorded as a duo. These two incurable romantics," as Aaltonen defines it, use this opportunity to record an album featuring their unique musical communication as one musical entity. All 16 improvisations--based on Sarmanto's melodies, spontaneous creations in the studio and two standards--are launching pads for the pair's rich and sophisticated melodic language--romantic, at times, but never sentimental. Reflecting a shared ...read more
Many musicians from other countries come to the United States to study their art and then remain to build careers. Others, like saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen and pianist Heikki Sarmanto, both from Finland, attended programs in the US--in both cases at Boston's Berklee College--and then returned home to perform and record.With a history of five decades of musical collaboration, the Finnish legends open an ongoing dialogue with Conversations, a two-CD set of nearly two hours worth of free improvisation--a duration and description that can scare off those without fair supply of free jazz fortitude. But free jazz/free improvisation is ...read more
If Reflections is any indication, Finland's emerging TUM Records should have a long and happy life ahead. Fans of free improvisation, which is the label's focus, should take note.
Before you even get to the music, TUM's presentation is impressive. In an age when digital music and personal playlists are ever gaining new acolytes, TUM's production values are a reminder of the satisfaction that a well-packaged album can deliver. There's an attractive modern art cover (from Finnish Constructivist Lars-Gunnar Nordström) and a booklet of session photos, individual bios, and trio history, plus illuminating track descriptions.Fortunately the ...read more
Join our growing community ofwriters, musicians, visual artists and advocates.