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Jarmo Savolainen - a jazz soul
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-06-17 09:09:07
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It is always difficult to write something about an artist who has just left us, and it gets even more difficult to write something when this artist is young. Like in the case of Jarmo Savolainen, a brilliant jazz pianist from Finland, who died at just forty-eight years of age. He was a man who enriched the international jazz scene with his unique piano playing, and he was definitely somebody who will be missed, because he didn’t have the time to fully unveil his talent.

There is something strange about this country when it comes to jazz music, and it must have something to do with the water, I cannot give any other suitable explanation. There are people who are naturally born jazz players, and it is a pity that a lot of them don’t have the chance to cross the borders and become internationally known, as they should be. Not that they’re not known in the jazz world, on the contrary. Jarmo Savolainen aside, who knows Riko Goto Trio or Jarmo Sari? Not to mention Antti Sarpila, who is known mainly because he is always playing for the president at the big ball dances at the presidential palace?

At least people outside of Finland have their excuses not to know them, but what about the Finns? Sometimes when I mention some of these names, I face a total surprise that I know them, followed by the question how I do know them. This from people who have Gillespie or Keith Jarrett records in their collections. Keith Jarrett, who was exactly what made me listen to Jarmo Savolainen in the first place, and what also made me get some of his records. In the sleeve of one of his records, he mentions that Keith Jarrett and Chick Korea were great inspirations for him and that they made his playing and composing develop. I’m a great fan of both, and the first time I heard Jarmo Savolainen playing, it was like being in a room with both of these giants playing. Jarmo Savolainen had the young spirit of Keith Jarrett and the playful and improvising attitude of Chuck Korea, but he had more, he had the discipline and the feeling of a real jazz composer living in the beginning of the 21st century. The man combined classic jazz with contemporary improvisation and I admit that I absolutely loved it.

I’m more a fan of small jazz clubs, with trios or quartets, and I don’t especially like big swing halls and jazz bands. When I listen to one of the first recordings with Jarmo Savolainen Quartet, I feel like I’m travelling to one of those dark and smoky jazz clubs in Paris in the late 70s. And when I hear Jarmo Savolainen Trio; with Uffe Krokfors on the bass, Markku Ounaskari playing brilliant drums, and of course Jarmo Savolainen on the piano, I feel like I’m flying. The feelings they manage to transmit are this strong.

While I’m writing this, I’m listening to the record, “John’s Sons” with Jarmo Savolainen Trio, and I have to admit that the shock and emotions are pretty strong, especially since he was so young and so talented, and you can feel his talent unveiling in the soft way he’s touching the piano keys. If you have the chance, please get his recordings. Thankfully some people have put videos on YouTube, so you can actually see him and hear him playing some of his compositions.

I know it is cliché to say that the jazz world today is poorer, but I really do feel it; Jarmo Savolainen’s death is a great loss to the jazz world, and I cannot think of a better way to honour his memory than to invite you to listen to some of his music with me:


For more information about the man, you can visit his website: http://www.jarmosavolainen.com/


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Rich Shemaria2009-07-13 16:37:36
Jarmo was one of the first cats I met when I came to direct UMO in 1994. He was an exceptional musician and a good soul. He was fun to hang with and he could make me laugh! I hadn't seen him in some time but, knowing he's not around makes the music world a bit less.......

Thanos2009-07-29 02:25:00
Thank you for sharing.
With great respect Thanos

Mathias2009-09-04 01:12:27
I was saddened to hear that Jarmo has left the room at such a young age. I had the honour of studying with him for two years at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He'll always be remembered for his warm humanity, oftentimes accompanied by a piercing and imaginative intellect. I remember the beauty of his compositions. His humor. And his masterful pianism - he taught the subject in grand style. Gratitude.

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