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.
The Saturday program begins with a very interesting from pianist Gerald Clayton. White 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 - 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.
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.
Tickets are now on sale - don't miss the 4-day festival pass and Saturday day pass options covering both of these upcoming gigs!