Iro Haarla (b. 1956) studied piano at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki with Izumi Tateno and also studied piano and improvisation with Heikki Sarmanto, composition with Einar Englund and arrangement with Kari Tikka and Eero Koivistoinen (1974-79). Her early jazz influences included Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and especially Paul Bley.
In the late 1970s, Haarla began her collaboration with composer and drummer Edward Vesala, which continued until his death in 1999. Haarla´s musical collaborations with Vesala included participating in a number of recordings by Vesala in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Neitsytmatka in 1979, Mau Mau in 1982, Bad Luck, Good Luck in 1983 and Kullervo in 1985), a membership in Vesala´s Sound and Fury ensemble (Lumi in 1986, Ode To The Death Of Jazz in 1989, Invisible Storm in 1991 and Nordic Gallery in 1993-94) and participation in a number of smaller groups in addition to working on various other projects with Vesala, including music for several plays and movies. With Vesala, Haarla played piano, various synthesizers and other keyboards as well as harp. She also co-composed or arranged the music for Sound and Fury and all other larger projects of Vesala during this period.
In addition to working with Vesala, Haarla performed with various musicians close to Vesala, including saxophonists Tapani Rinne (RinneRadio in 1989) and Pepa Päivinen (Saxigon in 1997) as well as guitarist Jimi Sumén (Paintbrush, Rock Penstemon in 1991). She has also been a member of saxophonist Esa Pietilä´s 4 Streams (with Pietilä, Ulf Krokfors and Markku Ounaskari), saxophonist Jorma Tapio´s Rolling Thunder (Live In Japan, with Tapio, Haarla, Krokfors and Tom Nekljudow, in 2002) and bassist Antti Hytti and saxophonist Jone Takamäki´s Otná Eahket quartet, among many other groups. Beginning in the 1980s, she has also performed with many other leading European jazz musicians including saxophonists Juhani Aaltonen, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, pianist Christian Wallumrød and percussionist Terje Isungset (Iceman Is in 2001), among many others.
In the new millennium, Haarla has increasingly led her own groups and performed her own compositions. She has also performed as a solo pianist. In addition, she has continued her collaborations with former members of Sound and Fury, including Pepa Päivinen, with whom she published the much-lauded duo album Yarra Yarra in 2001, and Tapani Rinne (Nectic in 2002), most recently, in an electro-acoustic trio, iXt, with Rinne on clarinet, Haarla on piano and an alternating third member on electronics. She was also a featured soloist with Juhani Aaltonen on Raoul Björkenheim´s recording with the UMO Jazz Orchestra (The Sky Is Ruby, TUM CD 017, in 2006).
Perhaps most important for Haarla´s career in recent years has been her partnership with Ulf Krokfors. In addition to performing as a duo (Heart of a Bird, TUM CD 004) and together in various groups led by others, Haarla and Krokfors have co-led a nine-member ensemble, Loco Motife, which received the Emma Award for the Best Finnish Jazz Recording of the Year in 2005 for its album Penguin Beguine (TUM CD 011). Krokfors is also featured in Haarla´s Finnish-Norwegian quintet, which has included saxophonist Trygve Seim, trumpeter Mathias Eick and drummer Jon Christensen from Norway and has recorded two well-received albums for ECM Records (Northbound in 2004 and Vespers in 2010) and has also toured extensively both in Europe and in North America. The group´s most recent recording, Vespers, received the Emma Award for the Best Finnish Jazz Recording of the Year in 2011. In addition, Krokfors is a founding member of the Iro Haarla Quintet (with Haarla, Krokfors, Verneri Pohjola, Kari Heinilä and Reino Laine) and the Iro Haarla Sextet, which was first introduced at the Pori Jazz Festival in July 2009 (with Haarla, Krokfors, Heinilä, Pohjola, trombonist Jari Hongisto and drummer Markku Ounaskari). Both Haarla and Krokfors are also members of the Juhani Aaltonen Quartet, which has received wide acclaim (Conclusions, TUM CD 021). Haarla´s collaborations with Aaltonen started in various groups with Edward Vesala in the late 1970s and the 1980s and the three of them even formed a trio that performed at the Pori Jazz Festival in 1983. In addition to their work together in the Juhani Aaltonen Quartet, Aaltonen and Haarla have recently recorded a yet-to-be-released duo album.
Haarla´s work as a composer has in recent years included a number of orchestral works. One of her compositions was performed by the UMO Jazz Orchestra with Tomasz Stanko as the featured soloist in a concert broadcast by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in 2002. At the Tampere Jazz Happening in 2006 and again, in Helsinki in 2007, UMO dedicated an entire concert to her compositions, with the latter concert being broadcast by EBU. More recent compositions include five works for a string quartet and piano or harp, which premiered in Helsinki in 2008, and "Ante Lucem - Before Dawn…," a four-part composition for a jazz quintet and a symphony orchestra, premiered by the Iro Haarla Quintet with Norrlandsoperans Symfoniorkester at the Umeå Jazz Festival in Sweden in 2012. She also arranged Tapani Rinne´s compositions for Pori Sinfonietta and the Pori Big Band in 2011 (Luhtahuitti).
In addition to improvised music, Haarla has also recorded and arranged popular music, including for a recent recording by the singer-songwriter Matti Johannes Koivu (Toisen maailman nimi in 2011). In 2006, Haarla received the Finnish Jazz Federation´s Yrjö Award as the Jazz Musician of the Year.
Verneri Pohjola (b. 1977) comes from one of Finland´s most renowned musical families. After having studied trumpet both privately and at the Pop and Jazz Conservatory in Helsinki, Finland, and the Örebro Music School in Sweden, Pohjola was admitted to the Jazz Department of the Sibelius Academy in 1999 and received his Master of Music degree in 2012. At the Sibelius Academy, his teachers included some of Finland´s leading jazz musicians as well as visiting clinicians from the United States and other countries.
Pohjola first became better known through Ilmiliekki Quartet (with pianist Tuomo Prättälä, bassist Antti Lötjönen and drummer Olavi Louhivuori), which has issued two albums of its own (March of the Alpha Males, TUM CD 005, in 2003 and Take It With Me, TUM CD 020, in 2006), as well as an album with vocalist Emma Salokoski (Vi Sålde Våra Hemman in 2009). In addition, he has been active in a number of other groups, including Quintessence, a popular nu-soul ensemble (Talk Less Listen More in 2002 and 5 am in 2004); Q-Continuum, an offshoot of Quintessence (Organ Kane´s Quintessential Grooves in 2004and This Is the Marienhof in 2006); Suhkan Uhka, a 12-member ensemble (Suhka, TUM CD 001, in 2002); and the post-rock group Silvio, in which he played drums (Amass All You Can in 2005). He has also performed in various groups led by saxophonist Jukka Perko, pianists Giovanni Guidi, Iro Haarla, Seppo Kantonen, Aki Rissanen and Alexi Tuomarila, organist Jukka Gustavson and bassists Pekka Pohjola and Ulf Krokfors, among others.
Pohjola has performed as a soloist with the UMO Jazz Orchestra (Agatha in 2007) and Orkestrova and with such well-established international artists as saxophonist Anthony Braxton, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Gerry Hemingway. Currently, Pohjola leads his own quartet with pianist Aki Rissanen, bassist Antti Lötjönen and drummer Joonas Riippa (Ancient History in 2012), the ever-changing Aurora ensemble (Aurora in 2009) and Michelin Star with Joonas Riippa (Michelin Star in 2007). In 2010, he also released an album by the Finno-Chinese Verneri Pohjola Quartet (Hot Pot Place Around the Corner). During 2010-12, Pohjola performed with a trio that included Aki Rissanen and Joonas Riippa as part of the Finnish National Theater´s production of Paul Auster´s play Mr. Vertigo, with the trio´s music for the play also having been recorded (Music from the Play Mr. Vertigo in 2011). Recently, Pohjola released a recording with the improvising trio Black Motor (Rubidium, TUM CD 031). He has also recorded with pianist Sid Hille (Film Collective in 2012), violinist Adam Baldych (Imaginary Room in 2012), pianist Jens Thomas (Speed of Grace in 2011), the Olavi Trio (Triologia, TUM CD 026, in 2008) and Warp! (One Note Stories in 2005), among others.
Jari Hongisto (b. 1960) began his trombone studies in Finland in the mid-1970s and has also studied in Germany and the United States with the likes of Conrad Bauer and George Lewis. Although Hongisto has played in both symphony orchestras and jazz big bands, he has always been drawn towards more experimental expression often combining the worlds of modern classical, electronic and/or freely improvised music.
In the 1980s, Hongisto played with Edward Vesala in his Sound and Fury ensemble as well as in various smaller groups involving Vesala. Hongisto also participated in Vesala´s Kullervo recording in 1984-85 and was one of the founding members of the original Krakatau, with Vesala and guitarist Raoul Björkenheim.
After Vesala, bassist Teppo Hauta-aho became an important collaborator of Hongisto and the two have both recorded and toured together as members of Quintet Moderne (with Hauta-aho, soprano saxophonist Harri Sjöström, violinist Philipp Wachsman and drummer Paul Lovens) in the 1980s (Ikkunan Takana (Behind the Window) in 1987) and Sound Kitchen (with Hauta-aho and guitarist Hasse Poulsen) beginning in the late 1990s (Pass Me The Wine, Please in 1999) as well as various other groups, including a trio with pianist Shoji Aketagawa (Aketa Live In Finland - Omoide No Salo in 2001). Hongisto´s other important collaborators have included saxophonists Jorma Tapio and Esa Pethman, trumpeters Henrik Otto Donner (Free For All, TUM Box 001, in 1999) and Jarmo Sermilä (Random Infinities in 1991-95), pianists Eero Ojanen and Heikki Sarmanto and percussionist Jouni Kesti (Kollaboratorio in 1994). In 2006, he toured and recorded with the French trio of pianist Stephan Oliva, guitarist Remi Charmasson and bassist Claude Tchamitchian (Aquarian Forest). Currently, Hongisto is a member of the Olavi Trio (Triologia, TUM CD 026, in 2008), the Iro Haarla Sextet and the Jari Hongisto/Veli Kujala Duo, among others.
In addition to smaller groups, Hongisto has been much in demand as a big band player. In particular, Hongisto has played with the UMO Jazz Orchestra on and off since 1991 and has participated in a number of recordings by UMO (e.g., Primal Mind in 1991 as well as The Sky Is Ruby, TUM CD 017, and Agatha, both in 2006). Hongisto has also played with the EBU Big Band, the Eero Koivistoinen Big Band, the TOMO Big Band, the Kvarken Big Band, the Espoo Big Band and a number of other orchestras. In addition, Hongisto has been involved in several projects with more adventurous representatives of rock music, such as Tuomari Nurmio and Ismo Alanko.
Kari "Sonny" Heinilä (b. 1966) first began studying the piano at the Rauma Conservatory as a child, later transitioning to the flute at the Pori Conservatory. He began playing the saxophone at the age of twelve and studied at the Jazz Department of the Sibelius Academy in 1984-88. In addition to the saxophone, Heinilä also studied composition with Eero Hämeenniemi. Alongside his studies, Heinilä performed actively both as a saxophonist and as a flutist both in Finland and abroad.
During the years 1987-93, Heinilä was a member of the UMO Jazz Orchestra (Green & Yellow, with Bennie Wallace, in 1987; Play The Music of Muhal Richard Abrams in 1988; Helsingin Laulu in 1991; Primal Mind,with Raoul Björkenheim, in 1991; Dalens Ande in 1991; The First Seven in 1992; and Selected Standards in 1993). After leaving the UMO Jazz Orchestra, he has continued to work with the orchestraas a composer, arranger and guest conductor (UMO Jazz Orchestra in 1997; Day Dreamin´ in 1998; One More Time, with Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone, in 2000; Silent Music in 2001; Jatkumo, with Markus Ketola, in 2003; Agatha, with Kerkko Koskinen and Verneri Pohjola, in 2006; Traveller, with Mikko Hassinen, in 2008; and UMO On UMO in 2008). Since 2010, Heinilä has served as the co-artistic director of UMO. He has also performed with other big bands, including the Espoo Big Band (Grand Mystery in 1985, Plays Erik Lindström in 1986 and Moonlight Caravan and Finnish Characters in 1990) and the EBU Big Band.
One of Heinilä´s earliest recordings was with Edward Vesala´s Sound and Fury (Lumi in 1986) and Vesala´s final recording was, in turn, under Heinilä´s leadership, a quartet date also featuring vibraphonist Severi Pyysalo and bassist Ulf Krokfors (Lill´Lisa in 1999).
Heinilä has led his own groups since 1987. Particularly after leaving the UMO Jazz Orchestra, he has been active with a number of his own and collaborative groups, including his trio with bassist Anders Jormin and Markku Ounaskari (Tribus in 1999) and a quartet with oud player Leif Karlson, bouzoki player Pekka Nylund and percussionist Mongo Aaltonen (Mosaique in 2005). He has also released a solo saxophone recording (Antiqua in 2003) and a duo recording with guitarist Kalle Kalima (Stillleben in 2008). In 2004, Heinilä founded Albero, a chamber music group that combines contemporary music and improvisation.
Heinilä has also performed and recorded with trumpeter Markku Johansson (Markku Johansson & Friends in 1988), pianists Jarmo Savolainen (Blues Dreams in 1987, True Image in 1994, Another Story in 1997 and SoloDuoTrio in 2004), Jukka Linkola (The Tentet in 1994), Ralf Nyqvist (NYT Ensemble: Nature Poem in 2002), Samuli Mikkonen (7 Henkeä in 2002) and Kari Ikonen (Karikko in 2001, Oceanophonic in 2008 and The Helsinski Suite in 2010), vocalist Mia Simanainen (Ahava in 2001 and Matka in 2012) and drummers André Sumelius (Kaira in 2002), Mikko Hassinen (Damorada 3 in 2002) and Teppo Mäkynen (Teddy Rok Seven: Universal Four in 2005), among many others. In addition, Heinilä has recorded popular music, for example, with Von Hertzen Brothers (Approach in 2006 and Love Remains The Same in 2008).
Heinilä has composed music for jazz groups, big
bands, solo instruments and various chamber orchestras. He has also worked as a
teacher at the Jazz Department of the Sibelius Academy since the year 1992.
Heinilä was chosen as the artist of the year by Pori Jazz Festival in 1995 and
received the Finnish Jazz Federation´s Yrjö
Award as the Jazz Musician of the Year in 2001.
Ulf Krokfors (b. 1966) first began playing the bass with trumpeter Henrik Otto Donner´s quintet in the mid-1980s. Krokfors quickly made his mark as a member of drummer Edward Vesala´s Sound and Fury in the late 1980s (Ode to the Death of Jazz in 1989) and guitarist Raoul Björkenheim´s Krakatau from 1988 until 1999 (Volition in 1991 and Matinale in 1993 as well as Primal Mind, with Krakatau and the UMO Jazz Orchestra, in 1991).
After those early affiliations, Krokfors has become one of the most in-demand bass players in Finland and his resume reads like a Who´s Who of the current Finnish jazz scene. Perhaps most importantly, Krokfors was a founding member of both the Juhani Aaltonen Trio (with Aaltonen, Krokfors and drummer Tom Nekljudow, Mother Tongue in 2002 and Illusion of a Ballad in 2005) and the Juhani Aaltonen Quartet (with Aaltonen, Haarla, Krokfors and drummer Reino Laine, Conclusions in 2008), two small groups that can be considered essential to Finnish and European creative music.
Krokfors has also played and recorded with the quartet of saxophonist/flutist Sakari Kukko (Virret in 2001 and Joulu in 2003), participated in various projects by Henrik Otto Donner (Free For All, TUM Box 001, in 1999 and Strings Revisited, TUM CD 002, in 2002) and been a founding member of the 12-member Suhkan Uhka (Suhka, TUM CD 001, in 2002). Other frequent collaborators have included saxophonists Kari Heinilä (Lill´Lisa in 1999) and Esa Pietilä (Direct in 2002), pianists Kari Ikonen (The Helsinski Suite in 2010), Seppo Kantonen (Klang in 2000), Samuli Mikkonen (Korpea kuunnellessa in 1998 and 7 Henkeä in 2002) and Jarmo Savolainen (John´s Sons in 1996, Times Like These in 2002 and Song For Trio in 2006) and organist Jukka Gustavson (Moments in 2000).
In the past decade, Krokfors has increasingly collaborated with Iro Haarla in ensembles ranging from a duo (Heart of a Bird, TUM CD 004) to the nine-member Loco Motife (Penguin Beguine, TUM CD 011). He is also featured on Haarla´s recordings with her Finnish-Norwegian quintet (Northbound in 2004 and Vespers in 2010) and is a founding member of both her Finnish quintet and sextet.
In recent years, Krokfors has increasingly focused on his own groups and compositions, which have been featured both on Krokfors´ own recordings and recordings by Suhkan Uhka, the Juhani Aaltonen Trio and the Juhani Aaltonen Quartet as well as a number of others. In 2008, Krokfors published his first solo bass recording (The Incense of All Our Prayers).
Markku Ounaskari (b. 1967) first studied drums at the Oulunkylä Pop and Jazz Conservatory and, beginning in 1987, at the Jazz Department of the Sibelius Academy. During this period, his professional career also began when he toured and recorded with two legendary Finnish groups, Piirpauke (Algazara in 1987 and Zerenade in 1989) and the Pekka Pohjola Group (Changing Waters in 1992).
Beginning in the 1990s, Ounaskari made a number of recordings and toured in Europe, Asia and the Americas with pianist Jarmo Savolainen, often with bassist Ulf Krokfors (John´s Sons in 1996, Another Story in 1997, Grand Style in 2000, Times Like These in 2002 and Songs For Trio in 2006). Another important piano trio from this period that featured both Ounaskari and Krokfors was pianist Seppo Kantonen´s Klang (Klang in 2000). Ounaskari also recorded with guitarist Jani Malmi (One Leg Duck in 1994 and Pataljoona in 1997), trumpeter Mika Mylläri (Les Ponts in 1996), saxophonist Esa Pietilä (The Case: Codes in 1996, Fastjoik in 1998, Direct in 2002 and Travel of Fulica Atra in 2008), saxophonist Kari Heinilä (Tribus in 1999), trumpeter Henrik Otto Donner (Free For All, TUM Box 001, in 1999), vocalist Mirja Mäkelä (Secret Playground in 1999) and organist Jukka Gustavson (Moments in 2000). He has also been a longstanding member of trumpeter Anteri Priha´s Breadmachine (Eternal Experience in 1998 and Loveship in 2001).
Beginning in 1999, Ounaskari has increasingly worked with international projects and bands, becoming one of the internationally best known Finnish jazz musicians. These have included the Eric Vloeimans Band (Brutto Gusto in 2001), Andre Fernandes Trio, Sinikka Langeland Ensemble (Starflowers in 2006 and The Land That is Not in 2010), Fredrik Nordström & Niklas Winter Band (Live in Stockholm in 2004), Filip Augustson Quintet, Willemark-Heinilä-Ounaskari-Jormin Band, Walter Beltrami Band, Stockhausen-Busch Quartet (Fugara in 2011), Alexi Tuomarila Trio, Tomasz Stanko Quartet, Trygve Seim Ensemble, Rotterdam Metropole Orchestra and many others. He regularly collaborates with artists such as Fausto Beccalossi, Raoul Björkenheim, Arve Henriksen, Anders Jormin, Nils Petter Molvaer, Trygve Seim, Markus Stockhausen and Lena Willemark. He has also performed with many other internationally renowned musicians, including Ray Anderson, Furio di Castri, Lars Danielsson, Marc Ducret, Hein Van De Geyn, Tim Hagans, Ed Jones, Lee Konitz, Gnuyên Lê, Rick Margitza, Ron McClure, Nils Petter Molvaer, Judy Niemack, Lars Anders Tomter, Kenny Wheeler and Lena Willemark.
In 2009, Ounaskari formed Kuara with Norwegian trumpeter Per Jørgessen and Finnish pianist Samuli Mikkonen. The group´s first recording for ECM Records, Kuara - Psalms and Folk Songs, received the Emma Award for the Best Finnish Jazz Recording of the Year in 2010.