Finland’s most prestigious jazz awards were celebrated on the 5th of November at Tampere Jazz Happening. Jazz Finland granted the Yrjö prize to drummer-composer Mikko Hassinen, and acknowledged singer-pedagogue Maija Hapuoja with the Andania Award for lifetime achievement in Finnish jazz. Yle Jazz Radio presented their “Shadow-Yrjö” recognition to manager Pia Raitala.
Jazz Finland has decorated the “Jazz Musician of the Year” with the Yrjö Award since the year 1967. The latest recipients of the Yrjö include saxophonist Timo Lassy in 2020 and pianist Riitta Paakki in 2019. This year’s laureate Mikko Hassinen has made a remarkable career as a drummer, conductor, composer, arranger, and producer. Hassinen, who recently turned 50, continues to renew his musical skin with his new project, Future Food Factory, which features ambitious young musicians.
– His musical spectrum extends from acoustic jazz to world music and modern, electronic expression. Craftsmanship and teamwork have always been the trademarks of Hassinen, Matti Lappalainen shares the grounds for the recognition. Lappalainen is a member of Jazz Finland’s Board, who make the award jury.
– His musical spectrum extends from acoustic jazz to world music and modern, electronic expression. Craftsmanship and teamwork have always been the trademarks of Hassinen, Matti Lappalainen shares the grounds for the recognition. Lappalainen is a member of Jazz Finland’s Board, who makes the award jury.
Hassinen began his career in the mid-90’s, while still studying jazz music, composition, and theory at Helsinki’s famous Sibelius Academy. In recent years Hassinen has led his electronic Elektro GT ensemble. The first album of the band brought home the annual Teosto prize in 2015, and their sophomore Ruma, which came out in early 2021, continued to surprise the audiences and critics with a cross-over between rap and fusion jazz. Hassinen has also been a frequent guest at the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra for a long time and served as their Artistic Director in 2017–2019. In addition to jazz, Hassinen is a sought-after musician and producer in the fields of classical and art music.
The Yrjö-awarded percussion artist released his newest project Future Food Factory on stage at the Tampere Jazz Happening. The quartet, who will shortly record their debut album, is an exciting turn for their leader:
– My goal was to pivot to more acoustic and subtle jazz expression to counterweight the still up-and-running Elektro GT. I wanted to bring in young and bold jazz musicians, who could break the musical instructions that I would give, and even question the notation that I would write. I always want my music to sound new to me, one way or another, states Hassinen.
YRJÖ PIECE “INDIGO NIGHT” BY EEVA PEURA
The actual Yrjö Award is always a commission piece by a different artist each year. This year the artist is Helsinki-based painter Eeva Peura. Peura elaborates to have painted their oil-on-canvas piece Indigo Night in the strangely restless vibes that Hassinen’s music conducted:
– It got me feeling something different, something that was at the same time unfamiliar and really tingling. At its best, art can take us to places that we can’t even imagine, says Peura. Peura has graduated as Master of Arts from the University of the Arts in 2011. Their art is currently in the collections of e.g. the state of Finland and Helsinki Art Museum. In 2019 they were awarded with the William Thuring accolade by the Finnish Art Society.
ANDANIA AWARD TO MAIJA HAPUOJA
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 jazz singer and teacher Maija Hapuoja. Hapuoja studied and started her career in New York in late 70’s, and has toured the world and recorded hit albums ever since.
– Maija Hapuoja is one of the pioneers in Finnish jazz pedagogy, and during the past decades she has taught a number of our country’s top vocalists. Hapuoja’s iconic voice was presented to the Finnish audiences in the 70’s, when she and composer Heikki Sarmanto began their long-lasting co-operation. The fact that she has recorded 16 albums of her own, featured several compilations, and sang over 2.500 background tracks for Finnish artists, highlights her versatility as a musician, says Minnakaisa Kuivalainen, a member of the Jazz Finland board. Inspired by her vocal students, she has also written a book in 2015 about her original “Stretch” vocal technique method.
YLE JAZZRADIO’S VARJO-YRJÖ TO PIA RAITALA
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 agent, manager and coach Pia Raitala.
During the past years Raitala has successfully represented a variety of Finnish jazz artists. Currently her roster features the likes of trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and saxophonist Linda Fredriksson. Raitala also coaches future musicians by providing mentoring services and lecturing at music schools. Varjo-Yrjö was granted now for the 19th time.
Photo: Heidi Piiroinen