Born: March 24, 1973 Primary Instrument: Piano
Jazz pIanist and composer Samuli Mikkonen (b.1973 Jyvaskyla, Finland) is an emerging name in the European jazz scene.
His distinct and recognisable sound has its deepest roots in the landspaces and sounds of Central Finland, an area full of lakes and forests. Besides the Scandinavian and European jazz tradition, influences of Finnish as well as other ethnic musics can be heard, as well as 20th century classical music.
His latest project, KUÀRA, is an all-acoustic trio with drummer Markku Ounaskari and trumpet player Per Jorgensen, and their first CD on ECM Records, produced by Manfred Eicher, was released in November 2010. In 2012, another Norwegian, saxophonist Trygve Seim, has substituted Jorgensen in most of their concerts.
Mikkonen first appeared in the top-notch jazz bands of his home country Finland in the mid-90's, and has since then worked home and abroad, with a growing list of collaborators and different projects. Mikkonen has led a Scandinavian trio consisting of him, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Audun Kleive. He has played sideman gigs for Kenny Wheeler, John Zorn, Mike Gibbs and Wayne Krantz. In Finland, he has been the pianist of choice for world jazz outfit Piirpauke and jazz/improvising artists Sonny Heinilä, Sakari Kukko, Mika Mylläri, Pekka Pylkkänen, Jouni Järvelä and Jorma Tapio. He will also appear on the forthcoming CD of Senegalese singer Julia Sarr, one of the most interesting musicians in the Paris world music scene.
Before Kuára, Samuli Mikkonen has released 4 CD's of his own, and plays on some 20 others.
Besides most European countries, Mikkonen has toured in Argentina, Chile, Peru, China, South Korea, Japan and USA. Performance venues include premier European clubs such as Copenhagen Jazz House and festivals home and overseas: Jarasum Jazz Festival, Beijing Jazz Festival, Umeå Jazz Festival, Bergen Nattjazz, IAJE and others. His concerts have been broadcast by BBC, YLE, Sveriges Radio, Danmarks Radio.
Improvising on the piano since the age of 3, Mikkonen has expanded his sound palette by taking extensive studies of both jazz music and classical composition at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. In the late 90's, he had a period of strong interest in electroacoustic music, studying with Jean- Baptiste Barriére of IRCAM, Paris.
As a composer, Samuli Mikkonen has written for his own hand-picked ensemble '7 Henkea', as well as jazz ensembles ranging from duos and trios to a big band. Commissioned pieces include 5 pieces for big band, works for small jazz/classical hybrid ensembles and music for theatre and TV.
Mikkonen has been awarded several times by by Arts Council of Finland. He also received the Pro Musica award in Finland in 1999. He has a post as a Senior lecturer and Head of Pop and Jazz Music Education in Oulu University of Applied Science.
Mikkonen proved an even more astute pianist, tremendously interpretive while, at the same time, focused intently on his band mates. Beginning the set with a combination of inside-the-box strumming and outside-the-box voicings, his sense of dynamics was fundamental to the trio's success, as was Ounaskari's similarly astute ear.
John Kelman/All About Jazz
Piano, trompette, voix et percussions sont associés à leurs noms aux consonances nordiques. Les racines de leurs improvisations sont à chercher dans le flou de la frontière séparant la Finlande de la Russie, là où des peuples ont cherché à se consoler de l’exil par la musique. L’envie de plonger dans la profondeur des thèmes se mêle à la tentation de rester dans l’évocation....
-Bl, La Liberté
This album explores the music of the Karelian, Vepsian and Udmurtain – simply constructed melancholic melodies that lies at the heart of the Finnish culture. Russian psalm were added, so mixing music that has its roots in pagan times with Orthodox music from the east. The result is a captivating album where each musician has the time and space to be his own storyteller, drawing you into the heart of this mysterious, brooding music that is also somehow redemptive.
-Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise
Ci muoviamo lungo un viaggio nella musica popolare che si mantiene elegiaco e solenne attraversando temi più meditativi come pure canti di grande potenza espressiva; tutto è suonato con grande cura estetica ma con la capacità, rara ad integrarsi con la dote precedente, di restituire nell’esecuzione presenza e corpo e lasciare quindi intatta la suggestività.
-Pier Luigi Zanzi, Suono
Kuára bedeutet in einem Dialekt aus dem finnisch-russischen Grenzgebiet „Sounds“, Klänge also. Und obwohl die 14 Duo- und Trio-Stücke dieses herbstlich-dunklen Albums sich allesamt durch ebenso schlichte wie schöne Melodien teils religiösen, teils folkloristischen Ursprungs auszeichnen, trifft der Titel doch ins Schwarze. Das Besondere dieser wunderbaren Rückbesinnung auf säkulare und religiöse Traditionen eines beinahe vergessenen Randgebietes in Europa sind die Pausen, sie erst machen aus den Melodien „Sounds“
- Heribert Ickerott/Jazzpodium
Markku Ounaskari och pianisten Samuli Mikkonen utgår ifrån gamla ryska psalmer och folksånger från finskrelaterade ugriska kulturer som den karelska och den udmurtiska. Inkännande och kontemplativt väver de samman melodier och improvisationer, så att musiken också binds till nuet och till rummet där musikerna och lyssnaren vistas tillsammans. Själva vetskapen om vad de spelar påverkar mig säkert, men det måste också vara någonting inne i själva musiken som bidrar till känslan av ett mänskligt djup.
-Johannes Cornell/Dagens Nyheter, Sweden 11/2010
Samuli Mikkonen & 7 HENKEÄ 2003
Mikkonens music also avoids rigid forms. Rather than beat mechanically, his compositions seethe, pulse and drift ... This music surprises and challenges as it sprouts strange melodies, off-center pulses and mysterious harmonies .... 7 henkea puts on an intriguing, versatile display of musicianship and form: colorful musical architecture that feels rooted deep in the spirit at the spot where humanity and nature meet
-Matthew Wuetrhrich, allaboutjazz.com
The concert, consisting mainly of improvised music, became a varied and evocative musical journey. Each improvisation had a distinct character. Especially rewarding were the quiet points, loaded with melancholy; musical meditations not limited by any genre......besides the individual musical moments, the musicians' sense of form and entity carried on through the whole concert
-Pentti Ronkanen on Mikkonen-Ounaskari duo's concert at Jyväskylä Summer Jazz Festival, Keskisuomalainen - 11th June, 2007:
Korpea Kuunnellessa 1998
a hypnotizing rhythm built on the bare minimum of sound -Matthew Wuetrhrich, allaboutjazz.com
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