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Cream of Finnish Jazz Awarded at Tampere Jazz Happening

The Finnish Jazz Federation, the umbrella organisation of Finnish jazz, awarded trumpeter Verneri Pohjola with the Yrjö Jazz Prize on Friday 3 November at Tullikamarin Pakkahuone. Given annually to a distinguished jazz artist, the Yrjö is the most prestigious jazz prize in Finland. The prize, this year an artwork entitled Big Girl by artist Jenni Tuominen, was received by Pohjola at Tullikamarin Pakkahuone, Tampere Jazz Happening. The Varjo-Yrjö Prize, granted by the Finnish Broadcasting Company, was given to Koko Jazz Club for its successful effort of expanding its activities.

The Yrjö Prize is an annual jazz award given to a Finnish jazz artist in acknowledgement of his or her outstanding contribution to Finnish jazz music. The award was launched in 1967. This year’s winner is Verneri Pohjola who came to large-scale attention as the trumpeter for the Finnish jazz group Ilmiliekki Quartet. Today, Pohjola leads and is known for his own bands Verneri Pohjola Quartet and Verneri Pohjola Group, the latter of which issued an acclaimed album, Pekka, a few months ago. Released by the British Edition Records, the album paid homage to the trumpeter’s late father, legendary bassist Pekka Pohjola, and his musical heritage. Pohjola’s next release is Animal Image, a duo release with drummer Mika Kallio. The album is composed for Perttu Saksa’s film.

The Finnish Jazz Federation board was unanimous in their decision.

– Trumpeter Verneri Pohjola has played his way into the hearts of Finnish and European audiences. Pohjola discovered his own unique voice at an early point, and he has an excellent sense of space in music. As a band leader and composer he has garnered comparisons to the greats already at this point of his career, says Petteri Klintrup, the Chair of the Finnish Jazz Federation board.

– He is a defining presence in numerous successful groups and an active and constructive debater in the field of Finnish jazz.

The Yrjö Prize itself is a work of art made by a different artist each year. This year’s Yrjö is a ceramic sculpture named Big Girl by Porvoo-based artist Jenni Tuominen. The piece was commissioned by the Finnish Jazz Federation specifically for Pohjola.

– When I was brainstorming ideas for the prize, suddenly a strong and soulful female figure came to my mind. Her name is Big Girl and she represents the sensitivity that lives in each of us. She yields us our inner strength, she says.

A visual artist and an illustrator, Tuominen is and an alumnus of the Arts Academy, Turku, and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Her pieces have been exhibited around the world and she has also designed patterns for one of the flagship of Finnish fashion, Marimekko, since 2006.

Jazz Radio, a long-running jazz programme of YLE, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, rewarded the Helsinki-based Koko Jazz Club with the Varjo-Yrjö (Shadow Yrjö) Prize at the same event. The prize is given in recognition to valuable contribution to the Finnish jazz culture. Opened in 2010, Koko Jazz Club is a high-standard venue that delivers both Finnish and international acts. Operating jointly with Koko Theatre, the club has proved to be tenacious despite the continuous uncertainty of public support. Year 2015 saw the club branch out and start regular concert activity in Iisalmi, Central Finland. Since the beginning, jazz musician Timo Hirvonen has acted as its Artistic Director. This was the 15th year for the Varjo Yrjö to be awarded, and previous awardees include long-standing photographer Maarit Kytöharju and the legendary record shop Digelius Music, managed by the recently deceased Emu Lehtinen.

Photo: ACT Music