The most prestigious prizes in the Finnish jazz industry were given at the Tampere Jazz Happening festival on Friday the 30th of October. Jazz Finland granted the annual Yrjö Award to the saxophonist Timo Lassy. The award art piece was created by Heikki Willamo. Jazz Finland honoured the life’s work of journalist Matti Laipio with the Andania award. Yle Jazzradio’s Varjo-Yrjö recognition was presented to Tampere-based label manager Tapio Ylinen.

The Yrjö Award is an annual jazz prize given to a Finnish jazz artist in acknowledgment of their outstanding contribution to Finnish jazz music. The award was launched in 1967. This year’s winner is saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Timo Lassy.
– Timo Lassy undoubtedly belongs to the nobility in Finnish jazz, says Jussi Fredriksson, a member of the Jazz Finland board, who selected the winner.
– Lassy’s soulful music has enriched the Finnish jazz scene exceptionally strongly throughout the 2000s. Lassy’s rootsy and gripping expression has charmed a wide audience beyond the jazz fanbase as well. Sharp composing pen, recognizable sound, brilliant instrumentalist, fantastic band leader, praises Fredriksson.

Since 2007, Timo Lassy has made an international career as a solo artist and released eight albums. In 2018 Lassy’s Moves was awarded the Emma prize for Jazz Album of the Year. The latest release Big Brass (Live at Savoy Theatre) came out on the German Membran label. On the live album, Timo Lassy Band joins ranks with the impressive Ricky-Tick Big Band brass section. Before his solo career, Lassy was a member of the hugely popular The Five Corners Quintet, which is considered to be one of the most influential ensembles in the new era of Finnish jazz. In addition to leading his own groups and working as a side-musician for many artists, he also composes and produces film scores.

YRJÖ ART POHJANVALKEAT BY HEIKKI WILLAMO

The material Yrjö award itself is a work of art commissioned by Jazz Finland from a different artist each year. This year’s piece was created by artist, wildlife photographer, and author Heikki Willamo. Internationally acclaimed Willamo gave form to Lassy’s music in a piece titled Pohjanvalkeat (“Northern Lights”, pigment print in a metal frame, 50 x 75 cm, 2020). The original photo that depicts a detail of flaming aurora borealis over the sea, is from a nature series from Varanger Peninsula in Norway.
– Listening to Lassy takes me back to the image of that Varanger night: soft, shady, full of feeling. Power, that rests on the solid bedrock of jazz. Earth, water, and the flames of air – eternity and infinity, describes Willamo.

ANDANIA AWARD TO MATTI LAIPIO

Andania Award is granted to a person or a group for long-term, perseverent work for the promotion and establishment of Finnish jazz music and culture. The first Andania was given in 1988, and Jazz Finland’s Board has granted the recognition 16 times after that. The prize is named after the Andania ship, on which jazz music allegedly arrived in Finland in 1926.
This year the Andania was awarded to Matti Laipio, who has made a long career in jazz journalism and promotion, to name only a few of his accomplishments. He has also been a member of multiple Jazz Finland’s boards from the 1970s to the 1990s. Jari Hytti, a member of the current board, describes Laipio as a character who has made his mark in the Finnish jazz scene: – Laipio’s love for jazz and profound dedication to the history of jazz music is distinctive. Especially the older generation of jazz enthusiasts remember Laipio as one of the great “voices in jazz” while the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle was airing his jazz programs.

YLE JAZZRADIO’S VARJO-YRJÖ TO TAPIO YLINEN

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 phenomenon in recognition of valuable contribution to the Finnish jazz culture, usually behind the scenes and not onstage. This year the prize went to label manager, promotor, and musician Tapio Ylinen. Ylinen has run his Tampere-based record label Eclipse Music with passion for over a decade, since 2007. Yle Jazzradio’s Markus Partanen is especially taken by Ylinen’s dedication to jazz in its various styles and genres: of Eclipse Music’s catalog of over 130 releases, most represent jazz. Ylinen is a musician himself and runs the label’s live club in Tampere. Varjo-Yrjö was granted now for the 18th time.

The award ceremony, with a live performance by Timo Lassy Band, took place at Tampere’s Pakkahuone on Friday, the 30th of October. The award ceremony and concert were a part of the official programme of Tampere Jazz Happening and Jazz Finland’s member assembly National Jazz Days (Valtakunnalliset Jazzpäivät).