Yrjö Award winner of 2006 Iro Haarla talks about her love of birds and plans for the future, that consist of performances with musicians from Tampere and Australia.

What’s happening?

I am thrilled about our concert at Tampere Jazz Happening. After numerous cancellations due to Covid-19, this is my first concert this year! I have prepared for my quartet a new repertoire and two of the pieces are composed just for this concert. It’s wonderful to have a full Finnish programme at Jazz Happening. “Made in Finland” sounds good!

You have performed your own music in many line-ups, of which the quartet performing in Jazz Happening is the newest, only two years old. How so? Have you really avoided the classic jazz quartet or is it just coincidence?

Year 2018 was the first good time to establish a quartet. Since 2005, I performed a lot with my Norwegian-Finnish quintet in Europe with my ECM-records. Around the same time, since 2007 I have played in Juhani Aaltonen’s quartet. Having a quartet named after me would not have been an option back then.

How does composing for a quartet differ from composing to a trio or a quintet? How much do you think about the size and instrumentation of the ensemble, or the musicians you have chosen?

When composing, you must take every player’s function into consideration, and each player should have the same opportunity to enjoy their own position. In that sense, composing for a quartet is different from composing for a trio or a quintet. Assignments must be done differently and without compromising the atmosphere or the message of the composition.

The size of the ensemble does not affect the contents of the composition. I have always had around me musicians who are musically close to me, and it is a fundamental factor in my music. In this quartet, every member has the ability to understand and bring out the beauty of music with the required strength and depth.

Your pieces often have references to nature and birds in particular. Do you feel particularly close to them? You have budgies and canaries at home, right?

Surrounding nature with all its phenomena is an unending source of inspiration for me. The closeness of nature gives me also strength and peace of mind – it’s the air I breathe.

Especially birds are very dear to me. Nurturing the canaries and budgies I have raised brings me enormous joy every day. In my yard, there are plenty of birds that I feed during winter. The wedges of cranes and flights of swans flying above our house in the spring bring summer, and I say goodbye to them again in the autumn.

I think you can hear the feelings brought by those experiences in my music. “The beauty in the world, which has the power to encourage, does not lose its power when a shadow casts above life.”

What’s going to happen?

If we are free from the shackles of this virus next year, many of the postponed projects are waiting for me. In the fall of 2021, I am going to perform in Australia at the Wangaratta-festival with Jonathan Zwartz’ ensemble and at the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival. Thanks are due to the CEO of G Livelab Tampere Annamaija Saarela who presented my music to an Australian promoter.

Next year I am going to make a record Iro Haarla Trio featuring Juhani Aaltonen and release the debut album of Iro Haarla Electric Ensemble called What will we leave behind? – Images from the Planet Earth.

In November of this year, I am also performing with the band Hot Heros amidst the release of the album Vodjanoi. The sextet I assembled for We Jazz 2020 is performing my newly arranged pieces collected from the repertoire of Leo-Records, which we founded with Edward Vesala about 40 years ago.

Iro Haarla Quartet at Pakkahuone on Friday, 30 October at 20.00 Buy tickets Buy stream tickets