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Jukkis Uotila / The Stockholm Jazz Orchestra:
The Music of Jukkis Uotila
(KSJazz 71159-3219-2 /USA)
Compositions: Avenida, Wayne, Isla de Angeles, Loopy Loop, Out in Left Field, No Regrets, Quiet Authority, Chorale
All music composed by Jukkis Uotila
Fredrik Noren (lead), Karl Olandersson, Gustavo Bergalli, Magnus Broo -trumpets Bertil Strandberg (lead), Karin Hammar, Magnus Wiklund, Anders Wiborg –trombones Dick Oatts-lead alto & soprano sax, flute Magnus Blom-alto sax & flute Karl-Martin Almqvist-tenor sax, flute, alto flute Robert Nordmark-tenor sax, clarinet Fredrik Lindborg-baritone sax, bass clarinet Daniel Tilling-piano (on tracks 3,6,8) Martin Sjöstedt-bass Rafael Sida-percussion (tracks 3,7 only) Jukkis Uotila-drums (all tracks) & piano (on tracks 1,2,4,5,7)
Recorded March 3 & 4 , 2012
I fell completely in love with the big band sounds when my parents took me to hear the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band live at the Hesperia nightclub in Helsinki in 1974 (at my insistence, though!). I had already written my first big band chart (at 14) and wrote actively for the music school band until I moved to NYC. Interestingly, since then in my adult years and before this recording, I have only done an occasional chart every now and then. I’ve played in different big bands all my life, but it wasn’t until after my 40th birthday that I started thinking that I would like to do a big band record of my own music someday before I’m 50. Well, I missed it by two years, but here it finally is!
The twenty some years with the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra have been pure joy and I was thrilled when bandleader Fredrik Noren asked me to write a chart for the band’s ”Plays SJO” album in 2007. ”Avenida” got a very good response and raised interest to see if I had any more in my back pocket. Eventually Fredrik asked me to do a full album and I completed the program with seven more charts.
The compositions that I decided to arrange stem from my small group repertoire and I selected logical vehicles for this purpose. We open the CD with a tour de force, the aforementioned ”Avenida”, which was the title track on my second CD back in the late 80’s. I updated the tune with a straight ahead groove and added plenty of ensemble sections where I let the flow of the lines take me to places without thinking so much of the underlying chordal accompaniment. The featured soloists are the wonderful tenor saxophonists Karl-Martin Almqvist and his counterpart Robert Nordmark, ”the bear and the wolverine”. Robert plays the antidote to Karl-Martin’s melody statements and they both get to solo at length. After the melody I’m off to the races with my piano solo, getting a chance to play with the drummer I know so well ?. The ensemble section turned out to be a challenge, but you can hear how an experienced band like the SJO can make it all sound easy. Having great lead players in sections helps a lot! The drum solo is an extended one and I alternate with the half-time feel and the fast four after which the tenors again fight it out. Fredrik caps it all off with a high A on the trumpet at the end. I still remember the joyous hollers from the recording session after this take!
”Wayne” is a song that I found on the piano one day and immediately in my head started hearing saxophonist Wayne Shorter play the melody in his unique tentative manner, thus the title. Nevertheless, the main focus here is on the great Dick Oatts, whose uniquely personal saxophone stylings I used to wake up to when I stayed at his place when first coming to NYC. Being a big fan of Oatts’, I naturally let him interpret the tune the way he heard it. After the initial melody statement, the chart is a build from Martin Sjöstedt’s wonderful bass solo without background into my piano solo with the woodwinds and into Oatts’ three choruses in another key. Dick has a wonderful way to negotiate the modulating changes in the tune - and that tone, whew! And while Oatts solos, a key member of the band and a fine arranger himself, multireedman Magnus Blom takes over the lead in the woodwinds. The tune itself has somewhat of a gospel/pop influence, but the tutti that follows and brings the tune back to Eb, is a direct nod to Thad Jones. I was still hearing Thad and Mel in my head when I wrote the section. Check out Fredrik Noren’s beautiful lead trumpet here! Oatts soars over the last ensemble with the melody and there’s a surprise contribution by the piano player who seems to want to get some attention ?
I recorded ”Isla de Angeles” on my piano record ”Meninas” a while back and decided to dress it up for big band as well. Karin Hammar (courtesy of Skip records) plays a fiery trombone solo after the melody statement and we get to hear an ensemble before the bandleader Fredrik Noren has a chance to exhibit his soloist skills. The following ensemble is somewhat extended, I get to interact with the melodic lines with my drum fills and the polyphony climaxes with a little twist in the harmonic form. The two main soloists also vamp it out in the coda.
”Loopy Loop” has a loping feel, rapidly moving changes in the head and a loopy vamp that occurs every now and then. Polyphonic ideas flow all over this one, but I wanted to let my love for the big band tradition also show here. I’m moved by tenor saxophonist Karl-Martin Almqvist’s beautiful rendition of the melody and fills that set up the mood for longer solos. A recent addition to the band, Fredrik Lindborg is up first with the baritone and really kills this one! Swingin’ his buns off, he passes the baton to one of the senior members of the band, lead trombonist Bertil Strandberg, whose beautiful trombone sound can fill up a whole room. And again it’s Dick Oatts’ turn as he plays a few eight-bar sections before I come in with my piano comping and we take the tune a little further away from the conventional Dm/Bbm tonalities. I wrote an a cappella section for the horns, Fredrik Noren leads us through the tutti and Karl-Martin again takes it out.
”Out in Left Field” comes from my recordings in the late 80’s. I lightened it up, put a different beat to it, and gave room for fast-fingered tenor saxophonist Robert Nordmark and the feisty trombone of ”Mr. Handsome”, Magnus Wiklund. We break for a straight-ahead section for my piano solo and get into a tutti with fast sax lines spicing the weight of the brass. The two featured soloists get to vamp it out.
”No Regrets” is a ballad feature for my longtime buddy, the Argentinian trumpeter Gustavo Bergalli. Gustavo’s beautiful sound and fiery eight notes have graced the planet already for some years but his interesting choice of notes makes his expression always modern and unique. The band’s regular pianist Daniel Tilling finally gets to show his ballad expertise and contributes a beautiful solo here. The tutti section features woodwinds and brass again in that Thad Jones tradition.
”Quiet Authority” appeared on my first album that was released in 1984. I’ve been playing it countless times through the years and decided to add a few changes to it. Martin Sjöstedt plays the head first with help from Fredrik Lindborg on bass clarinet and then Karl-Martin Almqvist on tenor while Karl Olandersson on trumpet plays the fills. After Martin’s solo, we modulate a step down for my piano solo and come back up for Karl-Martin’s beautiful tenor statement. The ensemble has some Brazilian influence and the tutti moves to a few new places that I haven’t explored in the small group settings. Bass trombonist Anders Wiborg, the man who keeps everybody in good spirits with his funny comments, gets to join in on the melody statement and solo fills in the coda come from Karl-Martin and Karl.
The introduction to ”Chorale” is a showcase for trumpeter Magnus Broo, whose unorthodox and unique concept never leaves anybody cold. The tune itself is a Gil Evans-inspired mood-piece with only a five and a half-bar sequence that I modulated up and down and varied. Magnus Broo and I improvise freely under the first melody statement, Martin Sjöstedt gets a chorus on the bass after which Magnus returns, this time playing on the changes. Fredrik Lindborg on bass clarinet contemplates for a while and is eventually joined by the woodwinds after which Dick Oatts gets to set up the final ensemble. Daniel Tilling winds down the proceedings and we hear a final chord from the horns. The experience of conceiving this record was truly unforgettable, I sincerely hope that you also have enjoyed my venture into the world of big band!
"I know and love the way you play the drums. I knew you played piano, too! But MAN, you are one hell of a pianist, as well. The writing is so special and you can really hear the love of it from the players. You are once BAD MoFo! ;-) You bring so much to the table when you play with anybody. Cannot say enough!"
"Gorgeous material…in all ways - the writing (very creative and original), the playing, (great ensemble and soloists), actually EVERYTHING!!! 10000000 THANKS for your major contribution."
"Damn Jukkis, you are one bad-ass all-around musician! This stuff sounds great! Whatta band and beautiful compositions and orchestrations!"
"Incredible music! Listened twice this weekend and am thrilled and elated. You've made a great statement...your writing...playing...everything! I have no idea how you made many of those sounds, and the band...wow! Please give them my compliments!"
"Man, you wrote your ass off! And you sound great both on drums and piano. I particularly love ”Wayne”, Oatts kills it. The horn writing is first class. Beautiful sonorities and colors. Nice interplay between sections. And the band sounds very comfortable playing your music. Great tunes, by the way! Bravo!"
"Holy shit, Jukkis! Your writing is absolutely brilliant, at a level comparable to the best ever. I knew you played piano as well as you play the drums and now your writing emerges at perhaps a higher level, if possible! Last week I was in Prague performing with Randy Brecker and Vince Mendoza. We spent a LOT of time raving about you and this CD. I can't seem to take it off my player. So far, I have heard the entire CD four times back to back! The band is ridiculous, as always! Great soloists, great playing of some very difficult music! I'm gonna spread the word about this CD!"