Finland’s most prestigious jazz awards were celebrated on the 4th of November at Tampere Jazz Happening. Jazz Finland granted the Yrjö prize to trumpeter-bandleader Jukka Eskola, and acknowledged drummer-influencer Reiska Laine with the Andania Award for lifetime achievement in Finnish jazz. Yle Jazz Radio presented their “Shadow-Yrjö” recognition to Sibelius Academy’s student advisor Anne Etelätalo.
Jazz Finland has decorated the “Jazz Musician of the Year” with the Yrjö Award since year 1967. The latest recipients of the Yrjö include drummer Mikko Hassinen in 2021, saxophonist Timo Lassy in 2020 and pianist Riitta Paakki in 2019. This year’s laureate Jukka Eskola has made a remarkable career, and is widely considered as one of the key instrumentalists of his generation in Finnish jazz. To the greater public, he is best known as an entertainer in various live bands on TV’s much-loved series, such as SuomiLove and Dances With Stars.
– Eskola’s trademark are his eloquent solos. He masters his instrument in such a way that his seemingly effortless playing seduces the listener to the vortex of the music. He has also brought jazz to wider audiences, praises Matti Lappalainen, stating the grounds for the recognition. Lappalainen is a member of Jazz Finland’s Board, who make the award jury.
– Eskola’s improvisation skills can be enjoyed in every Finnish household, through the most popular TV shows and over 200 recordings. He has also promoted Finnish jazz on international stages, by playing extensively abroad, Lappalainen adds.
Jukka Eskola is a Finnish trumpet player who ranks among the most popular jazz artists in Finland. He has become known as the leader of the Jukka Eskola Quintet, Jukka Eskola Orquesta Bossa, and as a member of The Five Corners Quintet. Eskola’s solo albums Jukka Eskola (2005), Hub Up (2006), Walkover (2009), Jukka Eskola Orquesta Bossa (2013) and Jukka Eskola Soul Trio (2017) have stabilized his position at the forefront of internationally noted jazz from Finland. Jukka Eskola is also a busy player in the Finnish TV and recording scene. He has played in well over 200 albums and he is a staple in various TV live bands, such as the SuomiLove and Dances With Stars.
Throughout his career, he has played in big bands as a section player and as soloist. UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra, Espoo Big Band and Ricky-Tick Big Band are only some of the established names that have featured Eskola’s trumpet. In addition to playing and arranging music, Eskola has lately been working backstage as well. He has led the artistic programming for the Elojazz festival in Oulu, Savoy JAZZFest in Helsinki and Oulu All Stars Big Band.
Eskola’s latest musical endeavour is Jukka Eskola Soul Trio, whose second album Steamy! came out in 2019. In addition to Eskola’s trumpet, the stylish trio features Mikko Helevä on Hammond organ and Teppo Mäkynen on drums. The trio’s soul-inspired groove was in the spotlight at the Yrjö award concert at Tullikamari’s Pakkahuone. Eskola reminds that jazz is still the key to all of his art:
– It warms my heart, that the things that I’ve done as a jazz musician and in the Finnish jazz scene, are appreciated in such a way. Even though my work as a musician takes me constantly from one genre to another, jazz music lives in my heart and soul. That’s where I scoop everything to all my work. The Yrjö award is a great joy and honor to me!
YRJÖ PIECE “SOFT DROP” BY MAISA MAJAKKA
The actual Yrjö Award is always a commission piece by a different artist each year. This year the piece is Soft Drop (burned ceramics, glassware, lustering, 2022), by the Helsinki-based sculptor Maisa Majakka, who currently studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. The piece borrows its title from Jukka Eskola’s composition, and the particular song has inspired the artist at their work:
– With the Yrjö award piece I wanted to describe how I see music as an ever-changing sculpture, as an imaginary physical shape and entity. In the artwork, I have depicted this experience with a shimmering cloud, that the dreamy character balances over their head. When I sculpted the cloud, I rested my thoughts especially on Eskola’s clear trumpet, which sounds very crispy and wistful in this song, says Majakka.
ANDANIA AWARD TO REISKA LAINE
The discretionary Andania Award is granted by Jazz Finland to a person or a group for long-term, perseverent work for promotion and establishment of Finnish jazz music and culture. The first Andania was given in 1988. The recipient of this year was drummer, band leader, activist, MP and jazz influencer Reiska Laine. Laine started his career in 1965, in various dance music and jazz bands. Ever since, he has been the flag-bearer for Finnish jazz and jazz culture in Finland.
– Reiska Laine is one of the greatest men in jazz. He is highly appreciated for his long-term career, which is still going strong. Alongside his work as a musician, Laine has been a powerful incluencer in Finnish music. He has spoken for jazz in various culture organizations and committees, such as the National Art Council of Music, and the boards of Pori Jazz and the Finnish Jazz Federation. During his term as a Member of the Parliament, Laine advocated jazz and culture in a broad sense. Laine received the Yrjö prize in 1981, and this Andania award makes him the first person to have collected both of them, says Petteri Klintrup, the Chairperson of the Jazz Federation Board.
YLE JAZZRADIO’S VARJO-YRJÖ TO ANNE ETELÄTALO-NIEMINEN
Yle Jazzradio, a long-running jazz programme of Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, also handed out their annual Varjo-Yrjö (”Shadow Yrjö”) award in Tampere. Varjo-Yrjö is given to a person, event, company or a phenomena in recognition to valuable contribution to the Finnish jazz culture, usually behind the scenes and not onstage. This year the prize went to Anne Etelätalo, Sibelius Academy’s long-time student advisor. Etelätalo’s career of over 30 years has been influential to several generations of jazz students. Varjo-Yrjö was granted now for the 20th time. The award ceremony took place at Tampere’s Pakkahuone on Friday, the 4th of November. The award ceremony and Jukka Eskola’s concert were a part of the official programme of Tampere Jazz Happening and Jazz Finland’s member assembly National Jazz Days (Valtakunnalliset Jazzpäivät).