Jazz Worlds Collide at Finlandia’s Tampere Jazz Happening
The Tampere Jazz Happening was named Festival of the Year by Finland Festivals, and the kudos couldn’t have been better timed.
This year’s fest, which took place in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 1–4, broke attendance records. In booking Tampere’s premier event, Executive Director Minnakaisa Kuivalainen and Artistic Director Juhamatti Kauppinen tapped into a more-than-eager vibe that finds regional music lovers rabid for all things jazz, whether it be the subtle charm of guitarist John Scofield’s trio with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart, or the all-out ballast of free-jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet. The band featured fellow reedists Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson, trumpeter Joe McPhee, the double-rumble of drummers Paal Nilssen-Love and Michael Zerang, and Fred Lonberg-Holm’s heroic cello. Pianist Vijay Iyer’s trio, Roy Nathanson and Curtis Fowlkes’ Reunited Jazz Passengers, drummer Gerry Hemingway’s quintet and percussionist Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures reminded us of where jazz is headed.
Finland is ripe with new, important and exciting sounds, including Black Motor’s volcanic mojo and the riveting and contrasting trios of Mopo and SLO Motive, as well as a strong contingent of outliers from Switzerland, Norway, Great Britain, Serbia and Ghana.
Across three festival sites—Klubi, Pakkahuone’s Old Customs House Hall and Telakka—the programming was smartly geared toward the listener in spaces that allowed for conversation, movement and much cheer and beer. At the afternoon and late-night weekend shows, there seemed to be a magical mix of generations, all with a universal mission: to have fun and be immersed in great, exhilarating music.
Rudolph closed out the Tampere Jazz Happening at Klubi, “the official bar and restaurant of the festival.” With Rudolph was a Finnish version of his Go: Organic Orchestra, a combination of his ongoing Moving Pictures Octet with local musicians. Each musician chimed in on Rudolph’s mix of composed and improvised—but nonetheless groove-based—music. The performance was loaded up with tons of percussion but also included a stellar horn section and pivot man Jerome Harris on electric bass. Rudolph has an irresistible knack for composing, leading the 40-piece ensemble through sections that had the Klubi crowd cheering, dancing and stomping its feet.
Preceding Rudolph were regional musicians who were every bit as engaging as the percussionist was. In fact, some performed with Rudolph’s group Sunday night, including members of Black Motor with saxophonist Mikko Innanen. Innanen’s own program Friday night at nearby club Telakka was a rowdy mix of free-jazz saxophone with bass and drums. Innanen and Sami Sippola (also with Rudolph on Sunday) drove the quartet with an unrelenting burn.
Mopo was a mesmerizing cocktail of saxophone enthusiasm, rakish acoustic bass and Bennink-like drummer groove and clamor, courtesy of Linda Fredriksson, Eero Tikkanen and Eeti Nieminen, respectively. Major highlight: the diminutive Fredriksson smartly playing double horns à la Rahsaan Roland Kirk. SLO Motive’s serene upending of the jazz canon with singer Sanni Orasmaa, keyboardist Kari Ikonen and percussionist Mamba Assefa managed to capture all that energy Tampere represents.