Juhani Aaltonen (b. 1935) began his professional 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, he performed extensively with trumpeter 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."
In the early 1970s, Aaltonen studied briefly at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and continued to collaborate with Heikki Sarmanto, Edward Vesala and others in Finland. During a three-year period towards the end of the decade, Aaltonen also performed and recorded as a member of the Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen´s quartet. Aaltonen was also one of the founding members of the UMO Jazz Orchestra in 1975 and continued with 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 cooperate with, among others, Henrik Otto Donner, pianist Jukka Linkola, Heikki Sarmanto, Edward Vesala and vocalist Maija Hapuoja. As part of this cooperation, Aaltonen performed as a soloist in a number of larger orchestral works, including Henrik Otto Donner´s orchestral suite "The Spirit of the Valley," Jukka Linkola´s "Crossings" and Heikki Sarmanto´s "Suomi Symphony."
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 with Ulf Krokfors and Tom Nekljudow. The trio released its first recording (Mother Tongue, TUM CD 002) in May 2003 and has appeared at numerous European jazz festivals since. Recently, Aaltonen has also been featured with The Avanti! Chamber Orchestra on a recording of Henrik Otto Donner´s compositions for tenor saxophone and a chamber orchestra (Strings Revisited, TUM CD 003) and with bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille on a trio recording including each participant´s compositions and collective improvisation (Reflections, TUM CD 007).
Ulf Krokfors (b. 1966) first began playing the bass with the composer and trumpeter Henrik Otto Donner´s quintet in the mid 1980s. Krokfors quickly made his mark as a member of Edward Vesala´s Sound and Fury (1988-1990) and guitarist Raoul Björkenheim´s Krakatau (1988-1999), recording with both for ECM Records. After those early engagements, Krokfors has become the most in-demand bass player in Finland and his resume reads like a Who´s Who of the current Finnish jazz scene. Most importantly, in addition to the Juhani Aaltonen Trio, Krokfors co-operates with pianist/harpist Iro Haarla, plays in the quartet of saxophonist/flutist Sakari Kukko, continues his cooperation with Donner in various projects and belongs to the 12-member Suhkan Uhka (Suhka, TUM CD 001). Other frequent collaborators are saxophonist Rasmus Korsström, pianist Samuli Mikkonen and pianist Jarmo Savolainen. Ulf Krokfors´ cooperation with Iro Haarla has been documented both in a duo (Heart of a Bird, TUM CD 004) and large group (Penguin Beguine, TUM CD 011) setting, and he is also featured on Haarla´s debut recording for ECM Records (Northbound).
Tom Nekljudow (b. 1960) has been active on the Finnish scene for improvised music since the late 1970s playing everything from traditional jazz and swing to latin jazz and fusion. However, Nekljudow´s primary focus has always been on freely improvised music. He played with guitarist Raoul Björkenheim already in the late 1970s and studied with Edward Vesala in 1983 and 1984. In the early 1980s, Nekljudow played in Sakari Kukko´s Piirpauke ensemble and in Roommushklahn with Björkenheim, saxophonist Jone Takamäki, pianist Jarmo Savolainen and bassist Antti Hytti. Nekljudow has continued his co-operation with Hytti and Takamäki in Suhkan Uhka (Suhka, TUM CD 001) and the quartet Otná Eahket, in addition to playing in various other groups.