Mikko Innanen (b. 1978) is a Finnish saxophone player and composer who graduated in 2003 from the Jazz Music Department of the Sibelius Academy, the only university level music academy in Finland. Innanen spent one year of his studies - fall 1998 and spring 1999 - in Copenhagen at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory, where he studied with and befriended a number of Danish and other students, including Jaak Sooäär from Estonia. In Copenhagen, he also began working with the other members of two groups co-led by him, Delirium (with Kasper Tranberg, Jonas Westergaard and Stefan Pasborg) and Triot (with Nicolai Munch-Hansen and Stefan Pasborg), that still continue to perform today.
Over the last few years, Innanen has also co-led or played with a number of other groups, including Nuijamiehet, Gourmet, Mr. Fonebone, the French piano trio Triade (Cedric Piromalli, Sebastian Boisseau and Nicolas Larmignat), The European Jazz Youth Orchestra, Itchy (with Jakob Dinesen, Jeppe Skovbakke and Rune Kielsgaard) and the UMO Jazz Orchestra. He has also performed with Han Bennink, Anders Bergcrantz, Billy Cobham, Marc Ducret, Barry Guy, Tim Hagans, Ingrid Jensen, Hiroshi Minami, Liudas Mockunas, Lelo Nika, Marcus Shelby, Chris Speed, Dayna Stephens, John Tchicai and many others in addition to virtually all of the musicians active on the Finnish jazz scene. He currently leads his own group Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio (with saxophonist Timo Lassy, pianist Seppo Kantonen and drummer Joonas Riippa).
Innanen was awarded a one-year artist´s grant by the Finnish State Arts´ Council in 2003, the best soloist´s prize at the International Competition for Jazz Groups in Getxo, Spain, in 2000 and the first prize at the first Jukka Perko Saxophone Competition in 2001. Innanen has been featured on a number of recordings, including Eclexistence (TUM CD 010) by Delirium, Sudden Happiness (TUM CD 008) by Triot with John Tchicai, Penguin Beguine (TUM CD 011) by Haarla - Krokfors Loco Motife and other recordings by Delirium (Fiasko), Teddy Rok 7 (Jupiter), Gourmet (Fiasko), Mr. Fonebone (Texicalli) and Nuijamiehet (Fiasko).
Jaak Sooäär (b. 1972) was born in Tallinn, Estonia. In 1996, he graduated from the Music College in Tallinn and, in 2001, from the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen. Since 2001, he has taught guitar at the Jazz Music Department of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and, since 2004, acted as the head of the department.
Sooäär´s first concerts (all over the former Soviet Union) took place as a member of the Estonian Boys´ Choir in which he started singing at the age of seven. Since 1989, he has been active on the Estonian jazz and pop scene, playing guitar literally with everybody of note.
Since the late 1990s, Sooäär has performed with many internationally known jazz musicians, including Conny Bauer, Han Bennink, Raoul Björkenheim, Eric Brochard, Gavin Bryars, Kent Carter, Pierre Dørge, Arkady Gotesman, Aske Jacoby, Anders Jormin, Ramon Lopez, Ron McClure, Karlheinz Miklin, Liudas Mockunas, Jari Perkiomäki, Etienne Rolin, John Schröder, Harri Sjöström and Petras Vyshniauskas, and has been active in several international bands, including The Dynamite Vikings, Erdmann/Sooäär Dessert Time (1st prize at international Peer Gynt Improvisation Contest in Pärnu, Estonia, in 2001), The Jaaksters, Mockunas-Pasborg Project and Almost Zebra (3rd place at the 5th European Improvisation Tournament in Poitiers, France, in 2001).
In 1999, Sooäär toured with The European Jazz Youth Orchestra and, in 2003, took part in the EBU Big Band in Istanbul, Turkey. One of his Estonian groups, Eesti Keeled, was granted the Estonian Music Award as the best etno/folk artist both in 2003 and in 2005.
Han Bennink (b. 1942) is the son of a concert percussionist who also played the clarinet in the style of Benny Goodman and the tenor saxophone in the style of Coleman Hawkins. Bennink began both of his favorite activities - making art and playing the drums - at an early age under the tutelage and influence of his father.
In the late 1950s, Bennink was attracted to the energetic jazz pouring out of the United States and began perfecting his hard swinging style on the drums with Kenny Clarke as an early hero. Beginning in the early 1960s, Bennink frequently had opportunities to play with the many American musicians visiting Holland, including saxophonists Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Sonny Rollins and Ben Webster, pianist Kenny Drew, guitarist Wes Montgomery and many others. From this period, jazz fans will also always remember Bennink as the drummer of saxophonist Eric Dolphy´s last recording (Last Date, Fontana/PolyGram) in 1964.
Bennink quickly established himself as a compelling drummer and was heavily involved with the nascent European free improvisation scene. With fellow Dutch pioneers, pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Willem Breuker, he founded the musicians´ collective Instant Composers´ Pool in 1967, also anchoring various bands led by Mengelberg or Breuker and appearing in their comic music-theatre productions. On Breuker´s recommendation, Bennink participated in saxophonist Peter Brötzmann´s classic octet recording (Machine Gun, FMP) in 1968 as one of the two drummers, with Sven-Åke Johansson as the other, and also began collaborating with guitarist Derek Bailey, recording the first of his duo albums with Bailey in 1969. Other frequent collaborators included saxophonists Steve Lacy, Evan Parker and John Tchicai, trumpeter Don Cherry and pianist Fred van Hove. Together, Brötzmann, van Hove and Bennink had a longstanding trio, well documented on FMP Records, in which Bennink showcased his talents on the clarinet, trombone, soprano saxophone and many other instruments, also featured in a series of solo albums he began in 1971.
Over the years, Bennink´s duo collaborators have included pianists Mengelberg, Irene Schweizer, Cecil Taylor and Myra Melford, bassist Peter Kowald, guitarists Bailey and Eugene Chadbourne, trumpeter Dave Douglas and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, among others.
Benninks´s many recordings from the 1980s include sessions with Mengelberg´s ICP Orchestra (where he remains a member), South African bassist Harry Miller, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and trombonists Roswell Rudd and George Lewis. From 1988 to 1998, Bennink´s main performing vehicle was Clusone 3, with saxophonist and clarinetist Michael Moore and cellist Ernst Rejsiger, which toured globally and recorded five highly acclaimed CDs for Gramavision, hat Art and Ramboy.
Today, Bennink is frequently heard with tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius´ quartet and in a trio with pianist/keyboardist Cor Fuhler and bassist Wilbert de Joode, and he still occasionally collaborates with jazz luminaries such as tenor saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Von Freeman or trombonist Ray Anderson.