We were lucky enough to hear about the concert held by the Espoo Big Band from Espoo, Finland held last night before it happened. Held in a ballroom at the Regal International East Asia hotel, the show was not widely publicized, and most people we talked to at the event had only heard about it a few days beforehand like us. There was still a pretty good turnout, but it’s too bad more people didn’t make it because it was a pretty amazing show.
The band was started early in the 1980s in Espoo, Finland by the man who still leads it now, Martti Lappalainen, and features many of Finland’s best jazz musicians. This band has obviously been playing together for a while, as everything was super-accurate and extremely musical. The program featured all original compositions by Finnish composers, including a few things written by band members as well; it was not your typical big band concert by any means. Luckily original jazz from Scandinavia is often much more melodic and accessible than much of the original music coming out of other major jazz cities like New York. Sure, it had its “out” moments, but they were used more in a context of tension and release, and they didn’t go so far as to completely lose the audience by any means. Overall it was very inspiring for us.
After the show we had to bound off to JZ to sub for Lawrence and his band who are all in Nanjing for a few days. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any available pianist OR drummer to join us as of right before the gig, as they were all gone, or sick, or booked elsewhere already. So we took a long shot and asked the pianist and drummer from the Finnish rhythm section if they wanted to come play a gig “right now!” They took a few minutes to decide to do it, and then after obligatory shmoozing at the reception with the consulate people, they made it over to the club to start the second set with us. They had been to JZ the night before to join in some late-night jams so they knew where it was. The drummer and pianist we asked to play the whole night with us showed up, as well as a guitarist and three saxophonists as well! All of them are great players, so it made the whole thing a lot of fun and we played till the club emptied out.
Cross-posted at shanghaijazzscene.com.