Sakari Kukko (b. 1953) is best known as the leader of the multi-faceted world music group Piirpauke. However, the saxophonist has always had one foot firmly in jazz. Founded in 1974, Piirpauke has never shied away from jazzy expression or improvisation, and has remain prolific in recent decades, making a record almost every year. At the same time, the saxophonist has guested on the records of several Finnish jazz and rock groups, such as Amorphis and Kingston Wall. Kukko was also the mastermind behind the Vintage Sax Quartet, which debuted at the Turku Jazz Festival in 2003.
Kukko graduated from high school in 1973 and then studied at the Sibelius Academy for a few years while also studying composition privately under the direction of renowned jazz drummer and bandleader Edward Vesala. Kukko’s impact on the Finnish jazz field was clear by 1976, when he was honoured with the Jazz Federation’s prestigious Yrjö award.
Raoul Björkenheim, born in Los Angeles in 1956, is among the top echelon of Finnish jazz guitarists. He has spent his entire life between two continents, travelling frequently between Helsinki and New York. Björkenheim first studied guitar at the Helsinki Conservatory of Music and later at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Since returning to Helsinki in 1981, he has been active in various fields of music while further developing his bold electric guitar playing.
Björkenheim has been a key co-founder of several bands including Sound and Fury with Vesala and his own long-running band Krakatau. Nowadays, Björkenheim mainly performs with the Scorch Trio, his Ecstasy quartet, the Hamid Drake and William Parker trios, and as a soloist in various productions. Björkenheim has been honoured with several awards, including the Yrjö prize in 1984.
Drummer Ilmari Heikinheimo (b. 1988), who has been called a torchbearer of Finnish free expression, has played with many leading musicians and bands in recent years, including Björkenheim, Piirpauke, Juhani Aaltonen, Jimi Tenor and Vesala's reborn Sound & Fury. His sound combines the explosive with the dynamic as well as the rhythmic possibilities of polyrhythms and rubato in a sensitive lyrical style, bringing melodic dimensions and an intense timbre spectrum to his free-flowing percussion.
Heikinheimo has worked with many prominent musicians of the jazz/improv scene at home and abroad, such as Arild Andersen, Jorma Tapio, Jonas Kullhammar, Pepa Päivinen and Hilmar Jensson, as well as progressive bands such as Alamaailman Vasarat. His many recordings include Pulsacion by the reunited Vesala Sound & Fury band, which was nominated for the best Finnish jazz album of 2013.
The evening will begin with the announcement of the "Jazz Legend of the Year" recognition granted by the Music Archive's board.