Tuomo Uusitalo releases a collection of original tunes inspired by his travels
Label: Fresh Sound New Talent
Set to Release July 1, 2019
Featuring: Tuomo Uusitalo: piano
Chris Cheek: sax (Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 8 & 11)
Myles Sloniker: bass
Itay Morchi: drums
Tuomo Uusitalo is a NYC-based award-winning pianist, composer, arranger and educator. Having released two albums as a leader, and appearing on numerous albums as a sideman, he has established himself in the New York jazz scene, and continues touring worldwide both as a leader as well as sideman. Born in Tampere, Finland, Tuomo Uusitalo started to play piano at the age of 6. As a teenager he played different types of music from classical to pop/rock, and soon became fascinated by jazz and the thrilling possibilities of spontaneous improvisation. While studying music in Graz, Austria (University of Music and Performing Arts, the oldest jazz institute in Europe), Tuomo already had the chance to work and perform with many jazz legends including Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Hart, Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Cobb and Jim Rotondi, as well as many other well known jazz artists such as Steve Waterman, Riccardo del Fra, Wayne Darling, Juan Garcia-Herreros, Howard Curtis, Stjepko Gut, Charlie Miklin and many others.
After graduating with honors from University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (Austria) in 2012, Tuomo moved to New York City, and has been living in the city since. He is performing
regularly around the city at numerous venues including NYC's main jazz spots (Smalls, Mezzrow, Fat Cat, Zinc Bar, Cornelia Street Cafe, Minton’s Playhouse, ShapeshifterLab, Cleopatra's Needle, Garage, University of the Streets, Arturo's etc.). During his time in NYC he has worked with several legendary jazz musicians including Curtis Lundy, Tyler Mitchell, David Schnitter, Jeff Hirschfield, Johnny O'Neal, Greg Bandy and Philip Harper as well as many notable musicians in the scene such as Chris Cheek, Seamus Blake, Ulysses Owens Jr., Dayna Stephens, Obed Calvaire, Rich Perry, Justin Brown, Elliot Mason, Peter Slavov, Josh Evans, Brandon Lewis, Gerry Gibbs, Scott Tixier, Jason Brown, Luques Curtis, Tivon Pennicott, Troy Roberts, Russell Hall, Evan Sherman, Alexander Claffy and Kyle Poole, to name a few.
TRIO, was his sparkling 2012 debut CD. The album won the Downbeat Student Music Award in 2012 for the Best Small Jazz Group. At the same year he also won the same price for the Best
Latin Group (Marco Antonio Da Costa Group). 2013 he was the recipient of prestigious Sir Roland Hanna Award from City University of New York. 2013 Tuomo had a chance to bring his original compositions to the Montreal Jazz Festival (Canada), where he was a part of the Jazz Composers-Series.
Fall 2014 Tuomo was on the road with The One And Only Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, touring six weeks in The United States and Canada. After the first tour with the band, he has been working with the TDO ever since on a regular basis, touring all over The United States as well as in Portugal, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Mexico. In 2016 he also started his twice a month - residency at the world famous Smalls Jazz Club, performing his original music and hosting the jam session with his trio.
2015 Tuomo was commissioned to compose and perform as the headliner at the renowned Chelsea Music Festival in New York City, where he met drummer Olavi Louhivuori, one of the all-time leading drummers in the European Jazz Scene. From then on they created a project Northbound, that recorded its debut album which was released in 2017, featuring world famous Seamus Blake.
2016 Tuomo released his second album as a leader, Love Song, on Fresh Sound Records. The album has been extremely well received among critics and fans. In 2018, Tuomo was asked to join The Post Modern Jukebox for their 2018 European Tour, performing in Iceland, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Israel. Tuomo’s 3rd album as a leader, Stories From Here and There, featuring the legendary Chris Cheek was recorded in NYC September 2018 and will be released on Fresh Sound New Talent July 1, 2019.
by bassist Myles Sloniker
I first met Tuomo sometime during the summer of 2014 at a “session” at the New School (for the uninitiated: a short and informal meeting of a few musicians to play jazz standards and one another’s original music) that was organized by a mutual friend of ours. Due to my own lack of observation more than anything, I’m not sure I realized at that first meeting what an enormously talented and profound musician I was dealing with. We bonded early on over my interest in the little-known Scandinavian island of Svalbard—I showed him a book of photographs I’d checked out from the NYU library which he in turn asked to borrow to show to his wife Una. Before long we were playing regularly at friends' apartments, music school rehearsal spaces, and more than once at Smalls Jazz Club on weekday afternoons before it opened for the evening. Over the years we’ve traveled, debated, cooked, shared our triumphs and tragedies, lent each other books, and most importantly forged a musical partnership that has been among the very most meaningful of my life. I introduced Tuomo to Itay a few months later to record an audition for a competition which I amusingly never even qualified and the three of us have been an inseparable unit ever since, often hosting the now-defunct "Afternoon Jam” sessions at Smalls every weekend, and touring and recording when our schedules permitted.
My hope is that these notes can illuminate some of what our lives were like and give a window into that specific time and place that this record was made.
That week, Tuomo had just returned to New York from a lengthy time spent in Europe with his family who had relocated from New York to Riga earlier that year, and he planned to continue splitting his time between the two places for the immediate future. For that reason, I don’t think we’d seen each other in at least three months which in all honesty, was a little tough on me at that somewhat-turbulent time in my life. Since shortly after we met, we’d been extremely close—seeing one another several times a week for a gig or a drink and if not, nearly every day checking in with a short phone call. Now the situation was reversed and although I knew he missed his family back in Europe, it felt good to play together and be in one another’s company again. Itay was exhausted but happy, as he'd had been playing every night that week at some very expensive nightclub with a brass group; a gig that paid well despite the band only playing for five minutes each night. This was on top of his work with the legendary pianist and singer, not to mention a mentor and hero to all of us: Johnny O’Neal. Johnny was a big believer in dressing up for the gig; he used to say that both the audience and one’s peers could see you before they heard you, and that’s probably why Itay seemed to be perennially wearing a spotless suit complete with a pocket square. That’s the scene as I remember it: Itay in his suit looking sleep-deprived but glad to be there, Tuomo with his signature red cap and colorful H&M jacket, me in a black T-shirt and ancient blue raincoat, each with a cup of black deli coffee close at hand. We made this record in the exact same way that we made the one before it: meeting for two days in a row; four hours each day. It being three years since we’d had an opportunity to make a record together, the content heard here is a mix of music that we’d been playing for years and of newer songs that Tuomo wrote specifically for this record. “Be Good or Be Gone”, a seven-bar blues melody, is a reference to one of the mottos of McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village, one of the oldest bars in New York. The other motto—evidently abandoned in 1970—is “good ale, raw onions, and no ladies” but Tuomo and I agree that that makes for a much less compelling song title. “Altitude 5003ft.” is Tuomo’s tribute to my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado; written on one of our tours there. If you listen closely to Tuomo’s solo, you can hear part of the theme to “Many Mornings”, another song written shortly before it was recorded. Largely, Tuomo’s music is what academics would call “absolute music”; that is to say that it stands alone and exists for its own sake, rather than being “about” anything in particular. Titles are mostly given based on what he feels would fit the song’s mood, and although he certainly has a style that is unique to him, it’s also my understanding that Tuomo nearly always writes simply what he wants to hear. In his own direct way of speaking, “I just write something”, as opposed to the pieces’ geneses being a compositional method or structure. That isn’t to say that his music (compositions as well as his choice in others’ songs) is devoid of inspiration from sources ranging far and wide. Apparently, one part of “Many Mornings’” melody was influenced by “Dance of the Knights” from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, a work both Tuomo and I have studied and cherished for some time. “Tonight You Belong To Me” was shown to us by my then-girlfriend from an appearance that the Lennon Sisters made on the Lawrence Welk show in the mid 1950’s. Our version of "Bouncin’ With Bud” is somewhat messy and raw, but I do feel it captures Bud Powell’s spirit on some level, and was taught to me by my father, a professional jazz pianist under whose tutelage I first learned to play music. I don’t have a great deal of insight into why Poems 4 and 8 are titled as such or why Tuomo decided to call them poems in the first place. It occurs to me to be a possible reference to the tone poems of the romantic period of European classical music, but all I know for sure is that they were written in the terminal of JFK on his way to Latvia for a recording earlier that year. “In And Out Of The Frame” in particular includes space for free improvisation, which both as a listener and as someone who was present for the recording, came as a surprise to me when I learned such after the fact.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful playing of Chris Cheek on this record as well. I think he first came to Tuomo’s and my attention after we heard his work with Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band and with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, particularly on the Bill Frisell composition “Throughout”. As always seems to be the case on self-funded projects involving busy people, there really wasn’t time for Chris to rehearse with the band before the day of recording itself, and it’s my recollection that none of the three of us had ever met him before that day. Needless to say, he was unbelievably sensitive and easy to work with, and his presence lends so much weight and spontaneity to the music. It feels a little surreal to reflect that something as seemingly significant as a record that will outlive everyone on it was made just a few hours after we shook hands for the first time, but then again, I suppose that sort of thing happens all the time in music.
More than anything, I believe this recording to be a document which accurately-if-abstractly chronicles and reflects the segmented and multifaceted life of its composer at that particular time and place, and perhaps of all of us as people taking part in its creation. I was truly honored to help to make it, and I sincerely hope that you enjoy it.
TRACKS AND TIMES:
Stories From Here And There
01 “Be Good Or Be Gone” 4:50 T. Uusitalo
02 Poem No. 4 - In And Out Of The Frame 1:34 T. Uusitalo
03 Best Thing For You (Would Be Me) 2:28 I. Berlin
04 Altitude 5003 ft. 4:14 T. Uusitalo
05 Boo Boo’s Birthday 2:36 T. Monk
06 Between Things 1:42 T. Uusitalo
07 Solitude 6:13 D. Ellington
08 Many Mornings 4:15 T. Uusitalo
09 Bouncin’ With Bud 3:51 B. Powell
10 Poem No. 8 - Crepuscule 0:34 T. Uusitalo
11 Tonight You Belong To Me 4:08 L. David
PLAYERS & INSTRUMENT:
Tuomo Uusitalo - Piano
Chris Cheek - Sax (Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 8 & 11)
Myles Sloniker - Bass
Itay Morchi - Drums
Recorded September 28 & 29 2018 @ Studio 42, Brooklyn NYC by Alessio Romano
Produced by Tuomo Uusitalo, Excecutive Producer: Jordi Pujol