Jazzing in Yerevan

  • Kari Ikonen (Finland)

Kariis Ikonen is a jazz musician and composer from Helsinki, Finland. His main instrrument is the piano, but he also plays quite a lot the Fender Rhodes electric piano and an old analugue Moog synthesizer, and occasionally some other keyboards too. One of the projects he concentrated on in 2011 was his own sextet Karikko, and members of the sextet had released their 3rd album in Spring of 2011.

As a composer and musician, Kari Ikonen always wants to develop and expand his knowledge, finding new influences and researching different kinds of music. Although he is considered to be a jazz musician, he has studied quite a lot of European classical, contemporary and folk music, Brasilian, Argentinan and Cuban music, rhythms from different parts of Africa, as well as some Indian, Arab and Middle-Eastern music. His most current plans include a 15 to 20 min. composition for big band and Moog synthesizer, and the first performance will take place in spring 2012 with the UMO Jazz Orchestra, the Finnish radio big band. The time he spent in Armenia was limited (2 weeks), because of his work. The resideny program of Ikonen was more about getting ideas, to listen and research to Armenian music and folk instruments and to do the most of the compositional work later back home. Although his interest in Armenia was more about the traditional Armenian music, he met some local jazz musicians, played several sessions and the compositions that have been jointly composed in Armenia.

After having studied piano for four years (1989-1993) in Jyväskylä Institute of Music, Kari Ikonen continued his studies in piano in 1994 and later in composition at the Jazz Music Department of Sibelius Academy, with such teachers as Jarmo Savolainen, Jukkis Uotila, Anders Jormin, Mike Gibbs, Sonny Heinilä and Olli Kortekangas. He also spent a semester of 1996 in Rotterdam Conservatory, where he studied with Rob van Kreevelt. He got his master’s degree from Sibelius Academy in 2001. Ikonen has performed with many different groups and musicians, for example Karikko (as a leader), Mr. Fonebone, Quartet Coyote, Ahava, Gnomus, Ingrid Jensen, Henry Lowther, Eero Koivistoinen, Jukkis Uotila, Sonny Heinilä etc. With these artists he has performed at many domestic and international festivals, including Pori Jazz, April Jazz, ITA Festival, Boulder, Colorado and Appleby Jazz Festival, England. His compositions have been played by various small and large ensembles, such as UMO Jazz Orchestra (Finnish Radio Big Band), which has premiered several his compositions, including ‘Unia’ (1997), ‘Nosreglo’ (1998) and ‘Luoto’ (2000). The last-mentioned won the first prize in the Jazz Orchestra category of the Jazz Composers Alliance/Julius Hemphill Composition Awards in USA, 2000 (he was also among the finalists in Small Group category). Another victory came in August 2002, when Ikonen’s composition ‘Peikkola’ (2002) won the first prize in ‘Scrivere in Jazz’ competition in Sardegna, Italy.

Ikonen has also worked as a teacher (jazz piano, ensemble, solfeggio) in Jyväskylä Institute of Music, 1993-94, Jyväskylä University Music education program, 1993 and Sibelius Academy Jazz Music Department since 1998.

Selected records: Kari Ikonen & Karikko: Oceanophonic (2008, Texicalli TEXCD 086); Gnomus: Diagnosis (2007, Fiasko Records FRCD-29); Mr. Fonebone: Hit and Run (2007, Texicalli;) Gnomus: 28 août 2005 (2005, Fiasko Records TOTAL 4); Gnomus: II (2004, Fiasko Records FRCD-17); Ahava (2001, Fiasko Records FRCD-7); Kari Ikonen: Karikko (2001, Fiasko Records FRCD-5); Mr. Fonebone: Live featuring Ingrid Jensen (2000, Texicalli TEXCD3000);Gnomus (2000, Fiasko Records FRCD-1); Quartet Coyote: Moisturizing (2000, Texicalli TEXCD 030); Mr. Fonebone (1997, Antti Rissanen ARFCD-463).