The Music of Jukkis Uotila presents an exciting array of modern big band arrangements performed by The Stockholm Jazz Orchestra (SJO), with compositions provided by SJO's drummer and occasional pianist, Jukkis Uotila. For over twenty-five years, the SJO has been at the forefront of big band music, proving that it's possible to explore innovation while remaining loyal to a fundamental swing. One of the ways SJO keeps their music fresh is by working with an impressive roster of guest stars, which over the years has included luminaries such as trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, drummer Mel Lewis, pianist Jim McNeely, and legendary Swedish singer Monica Zetterlund.
The SJO also encourages its members to take center stage, and this particular project spotlights the considerable talents of the group's Finnish drummer, Jukkis Uotila. Now in his early fifties, Uotila has forged a rich career, including co-leading bands with saxophonists Dave Liebman and Jerry Bergonzi, leading small groups with members such as trumpeter Randy Brecker and guitarist John Scofield, and sideman work with the likes of trumpeter Chet Baker and arranger and pianist Gil Evans. Uotila is also a gifted educator; in 1994 he became the first-ever Professor of Jazz in the Nordic countries, and his many achievements were recognized in 2011 when he received Finland's prestigious State Prize for Music. Uotila has released several CDs as a leader, but he has long aspired to create a big band record of his own music, and The Music of Jukkis Uotila is the successful fruit of that aspiration.
The CD offers eight songs and a generous 75 minutes of music. Highlights include "Avenida," a high-energy powerhouse full of harmonic colors and tasteful section work. Uotila provides numerous openings for the soloists to shine, including vigorous tenor work by Karl-Martin Almqvist and Robert Nordmark, and a drum and piano soloboth by Uotila. "Wayne" is an homage to saxophonist Wayne Shorter and his "unique tentative manner," as Uotila states in the liner notes. And indeed the song has a lovely shyness, with delicate colors and shades of contrast, plus a heartbreaking soprano sax solo by the mighty Dick Oatts. "Loopy Loop" is a pleasing, upbeat song with a joyful vamp, plus a swinging solo by baritonist Fredrik Lindborg and finely phrased lines by lead trombonist Bertil Strandberg. The tune also has a lovely a cappella section by the horns, and it's just these sorts of unexpected touches that give Uotila's songs a distinctive flavor. "No Regrets" is another lovely ballad, a tender melody that features the golden tone of Argentinean trumpeter Gustavo Bergalli, plus a spacious, introspective piano solo from Daniel Tilling.
This music is bright and bold, executed with masterful skill and infused with great warmth. Uotila works within the traditional big band parameters, but offers adventurous flourishes that make the music modern, and often downright stunning. Kudos to SJO, which is still going strong after all these years, and still taking chances that keep big band music a fresh and vital force in today's jazz world.
Avenida; Wayne; Isla De Angeles; Loopy Loop; Out in Left Field; No Regrets; Quiet Authority; Chorale.
Fredrik Noren: lead trumpet; Karl Olandersson: trumpet; Gustavo Bergalli: trumpet; Magnus Broo : trumpet; Bertil Strandberg: lead trombone; Karin Hammar: trombone; Magnus Wiklund: trombone; Anders Wiborg: trombone; Dick Oatts: lead alto, soprano sax, flute; Magnus Blom: alto sax, flute; Karl-Martin Almqvist: tenor sax, flute, alto flute; Robert Nordmark: tenor sax, clarinet; Fredrik Lindborg: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Daniel Tilling: piano (3,6,8); Martin Sjöstedt: bass; Rafael Sida: percussion (3,7); Jukkis Uotila: drums, piano (1,2,4,5,7).