Juhani Aaltonen (b. 1935) began his career as a free lance musician in 1961 and, at the same time, also began his studies at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. After one year, Aaltonen dropped out of school and became a full-time musician. During the 1960s, Aaltonen performed extensively with Henrik Otto Donner, saxophonist Esa Pethman, pianist Heikki Sarmanto, percussionist Edward Vesala and many others. In addition, Aaltonen was one of the founding members of the progressive rock group Tasavallan Presidentti. However, free improvisation has always been the preferred area of music for Juhani Aaltonen, his "mother tongue". Already in 1968, he was awarded the Yrjö prize of the Finnish Jazz Federation as the jazz musician of the year.
In the early 1970s, Aaltonen studied briefly at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and continued his cooperation with Heikki Sarmanto, Edward Vesala and others. Towards the end of the decade, Aaltonen was also a member of the quartet of the Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen for about three years. Aaltonen was also one of the founding members of the UMO Jazz Orchestra in 1975 and continued in the orchestra until 1986. Aaltonen left UMO after receiving a 15-year artist´s grant from the Finnish State.
During the 1980s, Aaltonen continued to work with, among others, Edward Vesala, Heikki Sarmanto, pianist Jukka Linkola, Henrik Otto Donner and vocalist Maija Hapuoja. As part of this cooperation, Aaltonen performed as a soloist in a number of larger orchestral works, including Heikki Sarmanto´s Suomi Symphony that was performed at New York´s Carnegie Hall in 1988.
During the 1990s, Aaltonen enjoyed a particularly close cooperation with Heikki Sarmanto, comprising a number of concert tours and recordings, including an eight-part suite for flute called "Pan Fantasy" and a composition for flute and piano called "Silver Spell". Since the late 1980s, Aaltonen has also performed and recorded religious music.
Currently, Aaltonen leads his own trio which includes Ulf Krokfors on bass and Tom Nekljudow on drums. The trio released its first recording (Mother Tongue, TUM CD 002) in May 2003.
Henrik Otto Donner (b. 1939) studied at the Sibelius Academy during the period from 1958 to 1963 and thereafter privately with, among others, György Ligeti. Donner has composed music for 21 films and a number of television features. Donner has also composed more than 1,000 songs, a number of orchestral works, chamber music, choral music, a lied cycle, a musical and an operetta.
During the course of his career, Donner has worked as a versatile composer of music, ranging from classical orchestral works to political songs, and also as an active jazz musician. Already in 1965, Donner participated as a trumpet player and co-leader in the Christian Schwindt - Henrik Otto Donner quintet, which recorded one of the first examples of Finnish modern jazz, the album "For Friends and Relatives" (RCA LSP 10070). The album "En soisi sen päättyvän"(Love Records LRIP 14), which was recorded by The Otto Donner Treatment in 1970, is also a classic of Finnish contemporary music and featured Arja Saijonmaa, Pepe Willberg and Jim Pembroke as vocalists. Henrik Otto Donner´s and Juhani Aaltonen´s first recorded cooperation was included on this album, with Juhani Aaltonen featured as a key soloist in the jazz sextet performing with the singers.
In addition to his own musical activity, Donner is particularly reknowned as a record producer, a music publisher and an influential figure in the fields of music administration and music industry. Donner was one of the founding members of the legendary record company Love Records in 1966, and has produced over 100 albums, representing a broad range of music.
During the last few years, Donner has led his own ensemble The Otto Donner Free For All, which has not only performed on a fairly regular basis, but has made its own recordings and participated in various projects by other reknowned artists. Donner has also served as the head of the Finnish Radio´s entertainment department, as the Chairman of the Finnish State´s Music Council (Säveltaidetoimikunta), as a founding member and Chairman of the Association for the Advancement of Live Music (Elmu) and in numerous other positions of trust within the music industry. Since July 2000, Donner has acted as a Professor of Arts.
Reggie Workman (b. 1937) started his career as a jazz musician in saxophonist Gigi Gryce´s band in 1958, and soon played with Freddy Cole, Red Garland, Roy Haynes and many others. After moving to New York in the early 1960s, Reggie Workman played in John Coltrane´s groups.
In the early 1960s, Reggie Workman established a position as one of New York´s leading young bass players performing with Art Blakey´s Jazz Messengers, Yusef Lateef, Herbie Mann, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Archie Shepp, Lee Morgan and several other leading modernists. In addition to recordings with John Coltrane (e.g., "Africa/Brass" and "Live at the Village Vanguard") for the Impulse record label, Workman´s recordings that are best remembered from this decade include numerous classic albums for the Blue Note record label.
Following the 1960s, Reggie Workman has continued his career as a leading representative of modern jazz, having played with Max Roach, Charles Tolliver, Billy Harper, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Mal Wadron, Elvin Jones, Marilyn Crispell, Oliver Lake and many others. In the early 1980s, Workman also became familiar to the Finnish audiences through his performances and recordings with Edward Vesala (Heavy Life, Leo Records 009) and Juhani Aaltonen (Prana, Leo Records 013).
Especially since the beginning of the 1980s, Workman has also led his own ensembles and recorded several albums under his own name. Workman has frequently composed works for his own groups, various dance projects and other cross-cultural endeavors. Reggie Workman has been active in jazz education for over thirty years and currently serves as the Director of Curriculum at the jazz department of the New School of Social Research in New York.
Andrew Cyrille´s (b. 1939) career as a professional musician began in the early 1960s and he is considered one of the most versatile percussionists within modern jazz. Already during his studies (1960-64, Juilliard and Hartnett School of Music), Cyrille played with numerous well-established jazz musicians, such as Mary Lou Williams, Coleman Hawkins and Illinois Jacquet, and with representatives of modern jazz, such as Bill Barron, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Walt Dickersson, Kenny Dorham and Freddie Hubbard.
Andrew Cyrille is perhaps best known for his membership in the Cecil Taylor Unit that lasted for over ten years (1964-75), during which Cyrille established his position as one of the leading percussionists in free jazz. Cyrille participated in two legendary recordings ("Conquistador" and "Unit Structures") by Cecil Taylor for the Blue Note record label and also played with many other leading musicians in modern jazz during this period.
Since the 1970s, Cyrille has increasingly led and recorded with his own ensembles, of which the best known have been Maono, The Group and the percussion ensemble Pieces of Time. Cyrille teaches at the jazz department of the New School of Social Research in New York.
Avanti! Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1983 at the initiative of two young Finnish conductors, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, as an open ensemble to perform the type of repertoire that, in its absence, would be at risk of remaining unplayed. During the last twenty years, Avanti! has established its position as a collective of open-minded musicians that performs not only contemporary classical music, but also improvised music and popular music, often in surprising combinations. Almost all of the musicians working as part of Avanti! have positions as members of traditional symphony orchestras but fulfill their dreams with Avanti! This was also true with the "Strings Revisited" project that brought together musicians from Avanti! with a particular interest in improvised music. Avanti! has also previously performed improvised music in a number of concerts and has cooperated with Juhani Aaltonen and Henrik Otto Donner on prior occasions.
For this recording, Avanti! included the following musicians:
Henrik Perello, Jari Valo, Janne Nisonen, Eriikka Maalismaa, Salla Tyrväinen and Juha-Pekka Koivisto
Minna Kangas, Jukka Untamala, Eeva Haapamäki, Eveliina Paavola and Mikk Murdvee
Tuula Riisalo, Minna Linnove, Laura Kajander-Fiestas and Hanna Tyrväinen,
Janne Aalto and Tuiri Lyijynen