Esa Pietila

Born: December 9, 1964    Primary Instrument: Saxophone

Esa Pietila

Born: December 9, 1964

Esa Pietila´s original style of avant garde / impro / freejazz and various projects of his - trio - quartet - solo saxophone concerts etc., have stabilized his position performing on the national / international jazz circuit, and have led him to play in USA, Canada, Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Iceland, England, USA, Australia, New Zeeland, Brazil and Cuba. Esa has performed with the names like Michael Jefry Stevens, Harvey Sorgen, Heiri Kaenzig, Jeff Siegel, Karl Berger, Mark Helias, John Esposito, Mathias Eick, Iro Haarla, Olavi Louhivuori, Aki Rissanen, Antti Lötjönen, Otto Gardner, Franziska Baumann, Christoph Baumann, Banz Oester, Mike Nock, Claudio Fasoli, Anders Begcrantz, Odean Pope, Raoul Björkenheim, Brian Melvin, Markku Ounaskari, Uffe Krokfors, Filip Augustson, Hilmar Jensson, Arthur Kell, Johannes Mössinger, Kjartan Valdemarsson, Fabian Kuratli, Jarmo Savolainen, Mika Kallio, Mikko Innanen, Seppo Kantonen, Ville Herrala and Erling Kroner. Esa has also stood on stage with many global jazz luminaries, e.g. Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Carla Bley, David Liebman, Vince Mendoza, Maria Schneider, Ray Anderson... ...
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“Esa is one of Finland's leading jazz musicians and a dedicated jazz educator. I recommend his albums Direct (Fiasko Records) with Uffe Krokfors on bass and Markku Ounaskari on drums as well as the album Fulica Acra that followed, which show his scope and imagination as a player.” - Professor Stuart Nicholson, Author, Journalist, Lecturer

About solo saxophone CD “Karhea”....Congrats on the new CD - it's FANTASTIC! - AllAboutJazz-New York ( Laurence Donohue-Greene ) Esa is a wonderfully gifted saxophonist and composer. I can highly recommend Esa as a composer, performer and educator.” - Michael J. Stevens, member, International Society of Improvised Music

Pietilä´s uncompromising approach, search for new angles and refusal to walk the trodden path betray his lofty ambitions, which comes across wonderfully in his most recent trio discs “Direct” and “Travel of fulica atra” -from an interview by Finnish Music Quarterly, FIMIC, 2008:

Esa Pietilä, known as a prowess visionary and improviser”… - Finnish Music Quarterly

Pietilä is obviously serious about his craft of freeform jazz, and together with bassist Uffe krokfors and drummer Markku Ounaskari, he has created an uncompromising set of mainly collectively improvised material. Never one to blow his lungs out like Peter Brötzmann, but not one to hold back either, Pietilä has a peaceful, storyteller´s approach to his music. He places great attention to creating musical sceneries that are essentially Scandinavian – and – Finnish by nature. Over the six years that Pietilä, Krokfors and Ounaskari have worked together as a trio, their interaction has developed into something seamless. The trio´s enjoyment of playing jazz oozes through and this album may well be their finest effort so far. - Finnish Music Quarterly

Bounding into “Mind Hunt,” the first track, with buoyancy and immediate claim to the listener’s attention, Pietilä’s trio puts forth its strengths up front that carry it through the remainder of the album: the group’s engaged absorption in the music, the members’ interest in the infinite potential of the sounds they can create, their openness for free improvisation and the elaboration upon the conventional roles of their instruments. The result is a recording by matured and explorative musicians whose enjoyment in the process of playing jazz comes through in each of the12 tracks. Pietilä injects immediacy and surprise into his playing by going for unplanned gems that like-minded interaction can discover through spontaneous playing. Pietilä doesn’t include any chorded instruments in his trio, and with good reason: His interests are as much about implication—the spaces between the dots he punches out—as about literal adherence to pre-written composition. Although Esa Pietilä’s recordings aren’t as heavily promoted as those of saxophonists on larger labels, his work is that of an always explorative saxophonist, accessible though with a personal perspective toward the music he plays. And “Direct” is the work of a jazz artist worth the search. - Don Williamson,

Way up in Porvoo, Finland, Esa Pietilä, the leader of “Direct”, has a tenor tone suitable for framing, partaking of the Coltrane and post-Coltrane stream but also icily ruminative a la Jan Garbarek, without dipping into any untoward ECMism. The rhythm section alone on this trio date would prevent that. Take ”Mind Hunt,” for example: bassist Krokfors quotes “Milestones” (the second one) while drummer Ounaskari plays with as many hands as Elvin Jones at his most ferociously exuberant, and Pietilä manages to evoke this highly-charged Sixties atmosphere while never resorting to the tired bag of tricks that so few have been able to resist before him. Even his reentry after a bass/drum solo on “Headway” strongly recalls the Master's reappearance after a similar interlude on “Alabama,” he doesn't allow himself to fall into any of the more obvious traps. Also, throughout this disc he seems to decline to take the bait offered by Krokfors and Ounaskari in particular, although the choices he does make complement their goading and churning just fine without making this into an outright Aylerfest. And his tone is gorgeous, particularly on the ringing “Direct” and the resonating “Point Zero”. - Robert Spencer, Cadence

selected discography as a leader : - Duo Esa Pietilä & Jeff "Siege" Siegel: OUT DOORS (ARC, Artist Recording Collective) 2012 - ARC-2420 - Brain Inventory Trio ( with MIchael Jefry Stevens, pno,USA, Juho Laitinen, cello, FIN): "The Wall" (Konnex-records) 2012 - KCD 5284 - Esa Pietilä Solo saxophone, "Karhea", Fiasko Records 2009 FRCD 41 - Esa Pietilä trio, "Travel of Fulica atra" Fiasko Records 2007 FRCD 31 - Esa Pietilä trio, "Direct", Fiasko Records, 2003 FRCD 13 - Esa Pietilä Quartet feat. Anders Bergcrantz, "Fastjoik" A-records/ Challenge, AL 73147 - The Case " Codes " 1996, Tricks Music TMCD 1196 as a member: Duo with Johannes Mössinger, "Natural Flow", 2007 Waterpipe Records Espoo Big Band & Jarmo Saari, 2002, EBBCD -3 Espoo Big Band plays Carla Bley 1993, EBBCD - 2 James Newton Workshop ensamble 1991 Espoo Big Band with Sakari Kukko, "Moonlight Caravan & Finnish Characters", 1990, EBBCD - 001

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Primary Instrument:


Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.

Pietilä has given masterclasses and clinics of jazz and free improvisation & saxophone expression at: Boston, Berklee Music school of Music, Privatiuniversitet Wien, Graz, University Jazz Department, Luzern Musichochschule in Switzerland, Malmö Royal Academy of music (Sweden), Reykjavik FUI Music School, etc plus numerous workshops at his home country. hours/rates - please contact

Clinic/Workshop Information:
MASTERCLASSES Masterclasses on improvisation, saxophone expression. Esa Pietilä gives masterclasses on various topics and methods of improvisation. Special topics include techniques of free improvisation & avantgarde expression which relate to variations on rhythmic aspects of performing different rubato styles, analogy versus contrast in harmony, playing with sound colours & textures and communication in group playing situation in general to express more with Your instrument / group. Some topics highlighted (ask for more specific presentation by mailing to - collective improvisation - improvisation from “scratch” - totally free improvisation/motives - contrapunct in collective improvisation - communication & “roles of the players” - layers within the group - dramaturgy & form Pietilä has given masterclasses and clinics of jazz and free improvisation & saxophone expression at: Boston, Berklee Music school of Music, Privatiuniversitet Wien, Graz, University Jazz Department, Luzern Musichochschule in Switzerland, Malmö Royal Academy of music (Sweden), Reykjavik FUI Music School, etc plus numerous workshops at his home country. Contact info: p. +358 400 815007, email:

Selmer tenor sax super balanced action year -58, Otto Link Early Babbit customed by Brian Powell in Ohio, USA

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