Sibelius Academy brings Finnish jazz to Beijing

The Sibelius Academy from Helsinki, Finland broadened the Musicathlon’s international profile.

In the morning, Jari Perkiömäki, Sanna Kaisa Spoof, and Jyrki Tenni presented a lecture on music education in Finland.  Their topics included jazz studies, teacher training, and lifelong learning; manstudents came on this sunny Saturday morning to listen and ask questions of the visiting musicians.

The Jari Perkiömäki Trio (photo) – with Mr. Perkiömäki on saxophones, Sami Linna on guitar, and vocalist Sirkka Kosonen – bills itself as a jazz trio, but their music slips beyond even a broad definition of jazz.  The audience had clearly never heard anything like it, but soon heads nodded to the beat.

Several of the Trio’s numbers are based on African Pygmy melodies.  Others tap into Finnish traditions, such as the throaty singing techniques of Finland’s far north and a jazz meditation on a Finnish folk song.  They explore a folk song of the Mari, a Finno-Ugric people that lives deep in Russia.  A couple of jazz standards find their way into the program.  Extended vocal techniques evoke the cries of birds, animals, and fairy-tale creatures.  Rhythms shift; layers of melody phase in and out; guitar and saxophone and voice exchange motives and trade roles, everything improvised.

After the concert, a Central Conservatory student hummed a melody to herself.  She stopped, then laughed, realizing it was one of the Pygmy melodies.

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