Internationally acclaimed Finnish jazz band Kari Ikonen & Karikko launches its US mini tour in mid June. They will start their performance spree at the Rochester Jazz Festival continuing after that to New York and Washington DC. Kari Ikonen & Karikko's performances carry on the multiyear Nordic collaboration to present innovative Nordic Jazz musicians to US audiences.
For the third year in a row, the Rochester Jazz festival is featuring talented Nordic jazz musicians. This year's Finnish pick, Kari Ikonen & Karikko will perform on Friday June 12th at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation. Kari Ikonen & Karikko will then perform in Washington D.C. as part of the Nordic Jazz week, playing first at the Embassy of Finland on Saturday June 13th and on Tuesday June 16th at the rooftop of House of Sweden. In New York Ikonen will play two sets with his band on June 15th at the Jazz at Lincoln Center' Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola as part of the Northern Light Series.
For nearly a decade, the Finnish pianist and composer Kari Ikonen has developed his compositional voice through his ensemble Karikko. Ikonen deploys Karikko’s instrumental and improvisational possibilities almost as if he were composing for an orchestra, creating a style that balances elegance and intimacy with boldness and expansiveness. Vibrant, swinging rhythmic elements pulse through his music at all times, in dialogue with the lyrical voicings and rich colours of the ensemble passages.
The 35-year-old Ikonen has studied piano performance and composition in Finland, most notably at the Sibelius Academy, as well as abroad at the Rotterdam Conservatory. His debut album, Karikko (Fiasko Records), won the Emma (Finland’s Grammy) for the Year’s Best Jazz Album in 2001. In addition to writing for Karikko, he also regularly composes works for a range of occasions and ensembles, such as for the Finnish radio big band, UMO. His compositions have been honoured internationally, taking first prize in the Julius Hemphill Composition Awards and in the Italian Scrivere in Jazz.
Ikonen is also an active member of various ensembles. In the electro-acoustic improvisation trio Gnomus, he experiments with synthesizers and electronics. He plays piano and writes for the art-song/jazz-vocal ensemble Ahava, accompanies the singer Sanni Orasmaa in her trio and mans the keyboards in Timo Hirvonen’s High Five, an electric quintet.
Oceanophonic is Ikonen’s second album with the Karikko ensemble. Seven of the eight pieces are Ikonen originals, each displaying a different facet of his musical identity. He sensitively blends electronic keyboards and acoustic textures (“Kolme Medusaa”, “Neptunus”), arranges the group into unexpected combinations (the cello-trumpet duet on “Satamatriologian Nejäs Osa”) or brings out his subtle humour (the jazz-meets-tango of “Tangolla Päähän”).
Interpreting such detailed and diverse compositions requires versatile and imaginative collaborators. After a decade of line-up changes, Ikonen has now assembled the definitive Karikko ensemble. In addition to his own ensembles, the French cellist Vincent Courtois has collaborated extensively with the likes of Louis Sclavis, Yves Robert and Rabih Abou Khalil. Oslo-based trumpeter Gunnar Halle has worked with a diverse array of groups, among them Splint, Fattigfolket and Pierre Dørge's New Jungle Orchestra. Bassist Tony Elgland has intensively investigated the music of Astor Piazolla in the tango quintet Otra Vez!, while also working with Finnish jazz figures such as pianist Samuli Mikkonen and Niklas Winter. Saxophonist and flutist Sonny Heinilä has pursued his own musical path, as a sideman to the likes of Edward Vesala and Jarmo Savolainen, and in his own projects, such as Tribus with Anders Jormin. Mika Kallio adds his exceptional ear for texture and colour to numerous groups, most notably Gnomus, Gourmet, the Sébastien Boisseau Unit, as well as in bands led by the guitarist Raoul Björkenheim or the saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen.
KARI IKONEN & KARIKKO
Kari Ikonen - piano, rhodes, moog synth
Gunnar Halle - trumpet
Sonny Heinilä - flute, alto flute, tenor saxophone
Vincent Courtois - cello
Tony Elgland - double bass
Mika Kallio – drums
June 12 Rochester International Jazz Festival, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, sets 7.30 & 9.30 pm.
June 14 Finnish Embassy, Washington DC, 6 p.m.
June 15 Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, NYC, 7.30 & 9.30 p.m.
June 16 House of Sweden, Washington DC, 8 p.m.
Northern Lights series
Several acknowledged Finnish bands have already been featured in the past years at the Northern Lights series in New York. The series is produced in collaboration with the Jazz at Lincoln Center, Nordic Consulates in New York and the Music information centers and jazz associations in Nordic countries. The featured bands include some up-and-coming bands like Ilmiliekki, Five Corners Quintet, Timo Lassy Band, Iro Haarla Quintet and more seasoned performers like Eero Koivistoinen Music Society.