JORMA TAPIO Although hailing from the South Eastern city of Mikkeli, Jorma Tapio (b. 1957) spent his childhood in Tikkurila near Helsinki where he began studying music theory and playing the piano and the violin. However, the discovery of bebop changed everything. At fifteen, the budding musician picked up the alto saxophone and began an ongoing exploration into the world of flutes, pipes and whistles. Tapio’s career as a professional musician began concurrently with his relocation to Turku at the age of 21. Soon after moving he began making waves within the local art community by working with prog rock group AD, poet Markku Into and various jazz groups. The first band Jorma could call his own was Lauantairyhmä, co-founded in 1980 with cellist Tuomas Airola and pianist Ismo Laakso. A watershed moment came as the reedsman was 27. The hunger for new experiences brought him to Helsinki and the attention of composer/drummer Edward Vesala. The experimental Sound & Fury workshops spawned a band of the same name with which Tapio would perform and record arduously. Aside from playing a prominent role on the group’s releases beginning with the 1987 classic Lumi, he also appears on related key albums like 1988’s Ritual, the debut offering by guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s Krakatau. The four-man horn section of Sound & Fury stayed together for a decade providing Vesala and his arranger and wife Iro Haarla ample opportunity to research and develop a unique timber. During that time, the working relationship between the altist and the drummer was so strong that Tapio could be seen as something of a Sancho Panza to Vesala’s Don Quixote. After the mentor passed away in 1999, he became one of the instigators of keeping the spirit alive and Sound & Fury functioning. Simultaneously with the Vesala escapades, Tapio ran the robust and versatile Hugry Tribal Marching Band and collaborated with leading Finnish rock bands and artists like Tuomari Nurmio and Sielun Veljet as well as improvising masters such as trombonist Jari Hongisto, saxophonist Pepa Päivinen and bassist Sampo Lassila. As the new Millennium loomed on the horizon, the reedsman commenced working more with international talent, e.g. percussionist Terje Isungset and trumpter Arve Henriksen (both from Norway), trombonist Conny Bauer (from Germany), flautist James Newton (from the USA) and guitarist Keiji Haino (from Japan). In addition, he rekindled his interest of combining movement and sound through collaborations with dancers Kirsi Heimonen, Masaki Iwana and others. With recent bands like Rollin’ Thunder, the Päivinen-Tapio Quartet, Frio, the Pyörre-kvartetti, Lekkujad and Sarastus, the alto saxophonist has perfected his style almost as in preparation for two new projects that will help him reclaim his rightful place among top Nordic improvisers. Tapio’s long musical bond with drummer Janne Tuomi yields a haunting and deep duo album whereas the eponymous debut of Jorma Tapio & Kaski pairs the man with the muscular yet agile rhythm section of bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laihonen.
Petri Silas, November 2015