April in Espoo

If you cannot experience ”April in Paris”, there is always Espoo. The last week of April is dedicated to jazz, and this year April Jazz Festival celebrates its 28th anniversary. Due to other occupations (what a pathetic excuse!) I bought tickets to only two concerts, both held in the Tapiola Hall of the Espoo Cultural Centre.

During the first part of my Wednesday concert, the stage was held by the Finnish Timo Lassy Band. Lassy plays his tenor saxophone with explosive energy, which is even doubled by the light but forceful style of Teppo Mäkynen on drums and Abdissa Assefa on percussions. A wonderful group with top musicians, but this time something was missing. Maybe a concert hall lacks intimate atmosphere, or the leader was displeased to see that the hall was not full. Anyway, it is enjoyable to hear familiar pieces played effortlessly as if this would not demand more than breathing.

Timo Lassy Band at April Jazz 2014

After the intermission came a surprise. I am not a great friend of folk music, and I am always sceptic if a band is described to have ethnic sounds. A young Norwegian, Marius Neset, however, melted me right at the start. His Birds played strange, free but very disciplined compositions by Neset in an enthusiastic manner. The group’s first album, Birds, was released in 2013 and immediately praised as a masterpiece.

Marius Neset Birds at April Jazz 2014

But where had I seen and heard Anton Eger, the drummer, before? Oh yes, in Pori Jazz last summer; he makes one third of Phronesis as does Neset’s pianist Ivo Neame. Take a glimpse of them with Neset in YouTube!

This year the venues of April Jazz have been extended. The opening concert with Cassandra Wilson took place in Helsinki, Finlandia Hall. Moreover, the festival tent in front of the Cultural Centre has been replaced by a larger temporary Arena 100 metres further. I did not like the earlier tent much, it was noisy with people talking and music often played too loud for me. Hopefully, the new arrangement works better.

Late night concerts and parties are, as usual, organized at the opposite Tapiola Garden Hotel, right across the famous pool, which was now filled not with water but some vehicles evidently collecting skating rink equipment to be taken away. Even the art centre WeeGee nearby has been harnessed for the use of April Jazz: there you can attend movie performances ”Leffa goes Live!” and after parties.

The pool after serving as a skating rink

Even if you do not want to buy a ticket, you can come and listen to music free of charge! Music students of Espoo Music Institute pop/jazz line Ebeli play in the lounge of the Centre every day. They also have a concert of their own on Sunday.

Young musicians from Ebeli at April Jazz 2014

But before that, on Saturday, Ambrose Akinmusire comes to Louhi Hall with his quintet. Looking forward!

The event I attended: April Jazz / Tapiola Hall on Wednesday 22 April 2014.
Timo Lassy Band: Timo Lassy (tenor saxophone), Georgios Kontrafouris (wurlitzer), Antti Lötjönen (doublebass), Teppo Mäkynen (drums), Abdissa Assefa (percussion)

Marius Neset Birds: Marius Neset (saxophones), Ivo Neame (piano), Jim Hart (vibraphone), Ingrid Neset (flute), Heine Bugge (harmonica), Petter Eldh (bass), Anton Eger (drums)
April Jazz is organized by Espoo Big Band Association



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