Suhkan Uhka is an ensemble brought together by bassist Antti Hytti and saxophonist Jone Takamäki to concentrate on compositional improvisation and to realize various commissions particularly in the areas of film and theater. The ensemble has gradually taken shape in connection with different projects and performances at events such as the Tampere Jazz Happening in November 2000. Antti Hytti himself says the following of SUHKAN UHKA and its name:
"SUHKAN UHKA was first formed after my friend Pablo Harju asked Jone Takamäki and me to put an orchestra together for a major outdoor event at Helsinki´s Senate Square in June 2000 to perform live versions of film music we had composed together.
This event gave us the opportunity to gather a sort of "Dream Band". After a successful performance, it was a pleasure to realize that all of the musicians involved wanted to continue working together. SUHKAN UHKA as a regularly performing ensemble was born.
SUHKAN UHKA´s diverse ways of musical expression and unconstrained artistic thinking are made possible by the fact that we are all old friends. It often only takes one glance to tie different thoughts together and carry the music forward.
The name of the ensemble came from an idea of Jone Takamäki based on his composition Suhka that is also included on this recording. "Suhka" is a word of the Lapp language that means "kinship" and "the feeling of togetherness". "Uhka", on the other hand, is a word of the Finnish language that means a "threat". We find the name SUHKAN UHKA appropriate as we believe that true artistic creativity and the joining together of artists inevitably form a threat, in the positive sense of the word, to some of the more mindless aspects of modern-day society."
All twelve members of SUHKAN UHKA create their own music within diverse musical idioms as composers and leaders of various ensembles. Perhaps one of the most distinctive features of this ensemble is the long-term relationships among many of its members and their converging musical and philosophical thinking. In particular, Antti Hytti and Jone Takamäki are kindred spirits who have worked together for over twenty years in various connections but many other relationships within the ensemble also go back almost as far in time. Another important feature of SUHKAN UHKA is the strong personal vision and drive of its members that enable the ensemble to engage in extensive improvisation within any given framework.
Although this recording presents original works composed mostly by Antti Hytti and/or Jone Takamäki, SUHKAN UHKA has also been known to cut loose on works by other composers ranging from some early compositions by Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett to songs by Stevie Wonder and others. In fact, one almost feels that the group has two distinct characters to it. In live performances, SUHKAN UHKA often engages in collective improvisation with almost reckless abandon, working within only a very loose compositional framework. The gigs are opportunities for the musicians to have some fun. However, on this record, the focus is on improvisation within fairly structured arrangements, a fact which may come as a surprise to those who have seen SUHKAN UHKA perform live. The compositions included in this collection are also quite serious in their almost solemn beauty.
This recording can be taken as a retrospective of sorts into the work of Antti Hytti and his co-operation with Jone Takamäki over the years. Although Antti Hytti first became known as the fearless bassist of groups such as Piirpauke, Tomasz Stanko-Edward Vesala Quartet and Jone Takamäki Trio in the 1970s and early 1980s, he spent much of the last twenty years focusing on composition and even laying his bass down for a number of years. This recording takes a look back at some of the music created during those years while at the same time offering a welcome return by Hytti to playing the bass, something that he also currently does with the quartet Otná Eahket and other projects.
Although the common reference point of all members of SUHKAN UHKA lies in modern improvised music, with the impact of certain of its masters present in the ensemble´s music, there is also something very Finnish to this music. Clearly, the Finnish nature and the sometimes rather serious and introverted character of its inhabitants form a major element. For certain of the compositions, this relates more or less directly to the original context for which they were created, whereas for others it is simply a reflection of an aesthetic that artists coming from this dark northern country seem to have built into their work.
All members of SUHKAN UHKA have, in addition to working with each other over the years, been active in countless other associations as well. One could indeed draw a rather impressive family tree for the members and their prior engagements reflecting the recent history of Nordic and European new music. In quite a number of cases, this family tree would indicate a connection with the late Edward Vesala, one of Finland´s most internationally renowned jazz composers and percussionists. In addition to Juhani Aaltonen, Vesala´s early partner in crime for an extended period from the late 1960s until the mid 1980s, each of Antti Hytti, Jone Takamäki, Tane Kannisto, Ulf Krokfors and Tom Nekljudow include Vesala among their strongest influences having both studied and played with him. Although Vesala´s influence can be felt, this ensemble is not, however, a continuation of Vesala´s Sound and Fury ensemble. As composers and performers, the members of SUHKAN UHKA are well past the point of copying their formative influences.
SUHKAN UHKA lays the foundation for its sound on two main pillars; a massive rhythm section and a group of soloists possessing an individual style and extraordinary musicianship. The rhythm section covers half of the ensemble and possesses strong solo power both in electric and in acoustic tones and shades. Indeed, it would be a luxury for any ensemble to number among its members the keyboard talents of both Seppo Kantonen and Jarmo Savolainen, the two most in-demand pianists in Finland, not to mention the strong bottom created by the double basses of Antti Hytti and Ulf Krokfors, with more dark flavor being added to the music by the trombone and tuba of Patrik Latvala. The horn section, which consists of five distinctive personalities using multiple instruments, can, on the other hand, reach both a primitive strength and a soft magic when called for. In particular, the tenor saxophones of Juhani Aaltonen, Tane Kannisto and Jone Takamäki form a triple threat that would be difficult to surpass.
Currently, the repertoire of SUHKAN UHKA mainly comprises compositions by Antti Hytti and Jone Takamäki as well as certain classics of modern improvised music arranged by the orchestra itself. For Hytti and Takamäki, the ensemble has already provided a versatile forum for exploring the possibilities offered by a middle-sized ensemble. However, there is much more music left in these two gentlemen not to mention all the other members of the ensemble - a resource that has gone almost untapped so far.