On their 2010 debut recording Kuára – Psalms and Folk songs (ECM Records 2116), long-time musical companions pianist Samuli Mikkonen and drummer-percussionist Markku Ounaskari explore the melodic universe of Fenno-Ugrian folk music and old Russian religious hymns, enlightened by the expressive, spontaneous trumpet playing and singing of Norwegian Per Jørgensen.
For the past 4 years, the trio has worked with another great Norwegian wind instrumentalist, saxophonist Trygve Seim.
In their new repertoire, the trio ventures into original compositions tailored for the current lineup, and cherishes the moment in spontanious, free-form improvisations. Deep forests sing, elks rumble their way through the bushes, waves wash over the surface of the open lake – with new sounds and ideas, Kuára is now taking the music of their ECM debute one step further.
Markku Ounaskari (b. 1967)
The versatile Markku Ounaskari is one of the most respected Finnish musicians. The drummer’s career commenced in the beginning of the 1990s, as he recorded and toured with two legendary units, Piirpauke and the Pekka Pohjola Group. Markku is featured on Piirpauke’s ‘Algazara’ and ‘Serenade’ and Pohjola’s ‘Changing Waters’. A true workhorse of Nordic jazz drumming, Markku Ounaskari is at home in any exciting environment and at this point in time it really would be easier to list the groups in which he does NOT play or hasn’t played.
With the pianist Jarmo Savolainen and his Trio, he made several tours in Europe including the big Jazz festivals. The trio has also made five recordings for a Dutch label (A-records). From 1999 he started to work more with international projects and bands, such as Eric Vloeimans Band, Sinikka Langeland Ensemble, Fredrik Nordström & Niklas Winter Band, Willemark-Heinilä-Ounaskari-Jormin Band, Walter Beltrami Band, Stochausen-Busch-Van Kemenade-Ounaskari Band etc. He collaborates regularly with artists such as Arve Henriksen, Trygve Seim, Anders Jormin and Raoul Björkenheim. He has made more than 30 recordings, including three ECM recordings with Sinikka Langeland and “Kuára”.
At the present he is touring with these bands all over the Scandinavia and Europe as well as performing in Finland. He has also toured and played with many legends among others; Lee Konitz, Rick Margitza, Tim Hagans, Tomasz Stanko, Kenny Wheeler, Ron Mc Clure, Lars Danielsson, Gnuyên Lê, Markus Stockhausen, Ray Anderson, Ed Jones, Furio di Castri, Hein Van De Geyn, Judy Niemack, Lena Willemark, Per Jørgensen, Marc Ducret, Lars Anders Tomter, Vertavo String quartet.
Samuli Mikkonen (b. 1973)
Pianist and composer Samuli Mikkonen was born in Jyvaskyla, Central Finland, and started improvising on the piano at the age of 3. Mikkonen has devoted most of his life to developing his own musical voice on the grand piano. His sound can be traced back to jazz, Finnish folk music as well as other ethnic musics, and classical music of the 20th century.
Mikkonen first appeared in the jazz bands of his home country Finland in the mid-90’s, and has since worked home and abroad, with a growing list of collaborators and different projects.
Mikkonen has led a Scandinavian trio consisting of him, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Audun Kleive. He has played sideman gigs for Kenny Wheeler, John Zorn, Mike Gibbs and Wayne Krantz as well as many Scandinavian colleagues. He also worked with Senegalese singer Julia Sarr. In Finland, he has been the pianist of choice for world music band Piirpauke and jazz/improvising artists Sakari Kukko, Sonny Heinilä, Mika Mylläri, Jouni Järvelä and Jorma Tapio.
Besides most European countries, Mikkonen has toured Argentina, Chile, Peru, China, South Korea, Japan and USA. His concerts have been broadcast by YLE, BBC, NDR and WDR Germany, Ö1 Austria, SRG/SSR Switzerland, Sveriges Radio and Danmarks Radio. He has released 5 CD’s of his own, and plays on some 20 others.
As a composer, Samuli Mikkonen has written for his own hand-picked ensemble ‘7 Henkea’, as well as jazz ensembles ranging from duos and trios to a big band. Commissioned pieces include 5 pieces for big band, works for jazz/classical hybrid ensembles and music for theatre and TV.
Trygve Seim (b. 1971)
Trygve Seim was born in Oslo in 1971, and took up the saxophone at the age of 14. His earliest inspirations were, he says, Jan Garbarek, electric Miles Davis, and ECM’s documentation of European improvising. Seim studied jazz at the Trondheim Conservatory. During those studies he met pianist Christian Wallumrod, co-producer of the present disc and an ECM artist in his own right (see “No Birch” ECM 1628) and together they formed the group Airamero, which made Scandinavian tours with Kenny Wheeler and played in Germany with Nils Petter Molvaer. In 1992, Seim, now based back in Oslo, joined the “little big band” Oslo 13 and appears on its 1993 album “Live”; when leader Jon Balke left the group in 1995, Seim and fellow saxophonist Morten Halle became the ensemble’s principal composers.
In 1993, Seim co-founded the quartet The Source, a group originally rooted in the free jazz tradition but which has since developed a personal style of its own. The Source has played several concerts in which they are joined by the Cikada String Quartet (the classical ensemble that has appeared on ECM recordings by Bent Sørensen, Annette Peacock, Arild Andersen and Mats Eden). A Source/Cikada album will be issued by ECM in 2001. 1993 was also the year in which Seim launched the Trondheim Kunstorkester, a large ensemble containing many of the players now featured on “Different Rivers”. “We started as a free music orchestra. I would just write small themes and then we would improvise: all of us were in the free music area at the time. In recent years, structure has become more important to me, and some of the pieces we play now are totally composed.”
In 1995, Trygve Seim played with the great Finnish drummer Edward Vesala (”Edward was very important for my musical development”), and they talked about forming a trio with Iro Haarla on harp and piano. In 1999 the project-in-progress was expanded to quartet-size with the addition of Anders Jormin on bass, and rehearsals began in earnest. The group played compositions by Seim with a melodic, freely expressive approach, as well as material by Haarla and Jormin, and radical re-workings of “standards” (if the term applies) by Legrand and Handel. A debut concert at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in July 1999, showed a group full of promise which was never to be fulfilled. Edward Vesala’s sudden death, in November of that year, closed this chapter.