Eero Koivistoinen - tenor sax; Pentii Hietanen - piano; Ilka Villman - bass; Reino Laine - drums
A potent tenor sax player, composer, and bandleader, Finland's Eero Koivistoinen made his US debut at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival after winning a Montreux Jazz Festival competition that included representatives from 15 countries around Europe. Appearing at Freebody Park on a star-studded Saturday evening bill that included the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Gary Burton Quartet, Stephane Grappelli, and Sly and the Family Stone, Koivistoinen made an impressive showing with his formidable Finnish jazz quartet, performing material from his current album at the time, Odysseus.
They come out swinging forcefully on Koivistoinen's up-tempo cooker, "Odysseus," which perfectly showcases the tenor man's bold tone and urgent flow of ideas. The lush ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is" (a tune covered by John Coltrane on his 1962 Impulse album, Ballads) has the Finnish tenor man wailing passionately into the high register of his horn, supported only by bassist Ilka Villman's moody arco work at the outset before the whole band joins in. Eero's virtuosic cadenza at the end of this piece is particularly stunning. "For Fun" opens with a bit of a calypso lilt before shifting to an aggressively up-tempo swinging hard bop groove that the tenor player sails over with chops ablaze. Pianist Pentii Hietanen adds a fluent solo to the proceedings before drummer Reino Laine unleashes a show-stopping barrage on the kit. And Koivistoinen digs deep on the uplifting set-closer "Traneology," an homage to one his most obvious influences as a jazz saxophonist.
Born in Helsinki January 13, 1941, Koivistoinen emerged on the Finnish jazz scene in the mid-'60s, distinguishing himself on tenor and soprano saxophones in the local jazz clubs. After studying at the Sibelius Academy with saxophonist Eero Linnala and composer Aulis Sallinen, he formed his first group, an adventurous free jazz trio with drummer Edward Vesala and bassist Pekka Sarmanto. In 1967, he was nominated Finnish Jazz Musician of the Year and two years later his group won the competition for ensembles in Montreux, Switzerland, which gave him an opportunity to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival; the very first time Finnish jazz was recognized on this scale in the States.
After studying in the early '70s at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he had such teachers as Herb Pomeroy and Joe Viola, Koivistoinen return to Finland and began teaching at the Sibelius Academy while continuing to make concert tours and recordings with his quartet through the '80s. In 1992, his recording Altered Things featured an all-world cast of sidemen in American jazz artists in trombonist Conrad Herwig, guitarist John Scofield, pianist Dave Kikoski, trumpeter Randy Brecker, and drummer Jack DeJohnette. In the mid '90s, Koivistoinen was appointed artistic director of Finland's UMO Jazz Orchestra and and conducted the group through concert appearances in Germany, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Estonia, and Lithuania. In 1999, they recorded the acclaimed Electrifying Miles with guest trumpeter Tim Hagans for the Dutch A-Records label. His subsequent works as a leader include 1998's Eero Koivistoinen and Senegalese Drums, 1999's Sometime Ago, 2001's Utu (a collection of Finnish folk songs arranged for jazz quartet), 2003's Wahoo! and 2006's hip-hop influenced X-Ray.
Koivistoinen's extensive list of works includes the ballet "Äiti Maa (Mother Earth)," a radiophonic suite for the Finnish Broadcasting Company called "Suomi" (based on speeches of Finnish presidents with musical samples and improvisations) and a suite of Thelonious Monk's themes called "Round About Monk," commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. (Milkowski)