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Savoy JAZZFest Brings Top Tier American Jazz to Helsinki in March - Get Familiar with the Artists with Album Picks

Savoy JAZZFest 2023 at Savoy-theater in Helsinki 2.-5.3.2023Savoy JAZZFest 2023 at Savoy-theater in Helsinki 2.-5.3.2023

Savoy JAZZFest is the seasons first international jazz festival in Helsinki. March 2023 will be the fifth edition of this festival and the first year with bassist Kaisa Mäensivu as the artistic director. While the whole program hasn't been announced, Saturday March 3 promises an evening of great jazz with some all-star quality bands. Get familiar with some of the musicians coming to Helsinki with these album picks.

Gerald Clayton White Cities

The Saturday program begins with a very interesting from pianist Gerald ClaytonWhite Cities pays tribute to artist Charles White drawing inspiration from White's 5 Great American Negroes series as well as three cities White worked in - New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

In this vein, the quintet consists of musicians active in these cities - Joel Ross on vibraphone, Marquie Hill on trumpet, Logan Richardson on saxophone and Jeff Parker on guitar.

All of the members of the group are prominent leaders in their own rights, so here is one recommended album to check out from each.

Gerald Clayton White Cities at Savoy JAZZFest Saturday March 4, 5:30pm

Gerald Clayton - Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard (2020)

I first became aware of Clayton when he played on Ambrose Akinmusires breakthrough album When The Heart Emerges Glistening in 2011. In the 2010's Akinmusire proved to be one of the most influential new jazz musicians and many of the most noteworthy new jazz albums coming from New York in the late 2010's echo a similar style and influence. This is also the case for Clayton's 2020 live recording Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard that for me marked Clayton's arrival in the heavyweight league of contemporary jazz and was his first recording for the legendary Blue Note label.

Joel Ross - Who Are You? (2020)

Vibraphonist Joel Ross is one of the most promising newcomers in the 2010's in that style and his three Blue Note -releases have been some of the strongest evidence showing that the classic label under the guidance of Don Was still has their finger on the pulse of exciting new developments in jazz. My favorte Ross album is his sophomore release Who Are You? that was my pick in my Jazzpossu-blog as the best international jazz release of 2020.

His music is tender, emotional, achingly beautiful but also intense at times. For my tastes, Ross represents contemporary American jazz at it's best and at 27 he's still early in his career.

Marquis Hill - New Gospel Revisited (2022)

Hailing from Chicago, trumpeter Marquis Hill might be even too versatile for his own good. Many know him best for playing with iconic Chicago scene figure Makaya McCraven and most of his own releases have heavy neo-soul and hiphop influence, but his discography also contains more traditional jazz and contemporary vibes similar to Clayton and Ross.

I was positively surprised by the intensity of his 2022 live release New Gospel Revisited that is fairly similar in it's stylings to the two albums above promising great interplay and compatibility for the Savoy gig - Ross also featured on vibraphone on this album.

Logan Richardson - Shift (2016)

Fans of Finnish jazz and followers of the Finnish jazz scene might know Logan Richardson from the Dunstan EP he did with drummer Teppo Mäkynen and bassist Antti Lötjönen in 2016. Since then Richardson has mostly done nearly kaleidoscopic afrofuturist music with a wide range of musical styles and influeces that's always exciting to check out, but also a bit of a shame as my favorite album of his remains Shift released in 2016 before Dunstan. It's a real gem of contemporary jazz featuring Pat Metheny in a rare sideman appearance - particularly the track Slow has become a favorite I spin regularly.

Jeff Parker - The New Breed (2016)

Jeff Parker, now based in Los Angeles, became part of the creative Chicago music scene in the 90's. He is maybe best known for playing in post-rock group Tortoise, but The Unstable Molecule album from Isotope 217 from 1997 is a minor cult classic for those in the know. Parker's 2016 release The New Breed for the taste-making International Anthem -label was a real breakthrough getting Parker wide new visibility among jazz record addicts and groove hunters. It's a relaxed, instrumental hiphop flavored bundle of grooves with a little bit of an experimental edge to it that has something charmingly unique about it. On my list of best international relesases of 2016, The New Breed was #3.

Dave Holland Trio with Kevin Eubanks and Eric Harland

Bassist Dave Holland is one of the most legendary still active bassists in jazz. He rose quickly to the top at the start of his career replacing Ron Carter himself in Miles Davis' group in 1968 and stayed with Miles for a few years during the breakthrough of fusion. Holland went on to mostly play acoustic jazz with dozens of albums released as a leader and co-leader spanning styles from free improvisation and free jazz to world music. Here are five album picks from his career spanning 7 decades.

  • Miles Davis - Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968)
    • Holland and Chick Corea replaced Carter and Herbie Hancock in Miles' group in 1968. The music on the Filles de Kilimanjaro album comes from two studio sessions - three tracks with Carter and Hancock and two with Holland and Corea giving us a glimpse into the early stages of one of the greatest revolutions in jazz music.
  • Dave Holland - Conference of the Birds (1972)
    • Holland's first recording as a leader - Conference of the Birds from 1972 - remains his magnum opus - and for good reason! While many jazz musicians went in the direction of fusion, even though Holland was there to help Miles popularize it, he chose to go mostly towards acoustic jazz, especially free and avant-garde in the 70's. Conference of the Birds is one of the great free jazz albums of the early 70's featuring Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton on reeds. Braxton was in general one of Holland's main collaborators in the 70's, his bass is heard on many of Braxton's 70's albums.
  • Kenny Wheeler - Gnu High (1976)
    • Another important, not to mention long time, collaborator was trumpeter Kenny Wheeler on whose albums Holland played for over 30 years. The most prominent is likely Gnu High from 1976 that features a real all-star band of top ECM Records talent of the time with Keith Jarrett on piano and Jack DeJohnette on drums.
  • Dave Holland - Prism (2013)
    • Holland did eventually come back to fusion with the Prism project that released an album in 2013 and also played in Finland on the main stage of Pori Jazz in the summer of 2014. While the trio coming to Savoy JAZZFest has not made a record, all three play here with Craig Taborn on keyboards.
  • Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain & Chris Potter - Good Hope (2019)
    • A good example of Holland's versatility is Good Hope from 2019 where he teams up with tabla player Zakir Hussain and top tier saxophonist Chris Potter for some relaxed and even meditative music.

Dave Holland Trio with Kevin Eubanks and Eric Harland at Savoy JAZZFest Saturday March 4, 8 pm

Tickets are now on sale - don't miss the 4-day festival pass and Saturday day pass options covering both of these upcoming gigs!

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Edited 17.12.2022