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PEKKA POHJOLA

Jazz Rock/Fusion • Finland


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Pekka Pohjola biography
Jussi Pekka Pohjola - 13 January 1952 (Helsinki, Finland) - 27 November 2008

Pekka POHJOLA is without doubt one of the greatest bassist/multi-instrumentalist in Europe. He knows how to handle several other instruments too... violin, piano, organ, keyboards, synthesizers, and trumpet as well. His style could be described with words as progressive rock filled with invention & Scandinavian folky/jazzy delights. In 1970 Pekka joined WIGWAM, a Finnish group around the English singer and pianist Jim PEMBROKE, staying four glorious years. In 1977, he formed The GROUP and in 1979, he toured with Mike OLDFIELD, who is an admirer of this bass-player. In 1980, The GROUP changed its name to PEKKA POHJOLA GROUP, but along the way the word "GROUP" is dropped, so the band played on as Pekka POHJOLA.

In addition to working with The GROUP, Pekka has released a number of solo albums over the years. Meanwhile, his music has reached new generations of music lovers. During his WIGWAM days, he recorded his first solo-album, the delicious "Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva". This album has symphonic/classical references and is very ZAPPA-influenced with lots of woodwinds and some fine bass soloing. "Visitation" is a real masterpiece of melodic jazz-rock elements on which Pekka shows his talents as a bass-player and composer. This is probably the best place to start getting familiar. "Urban Tango" (1982) and "Space Waltz" are probably more accessible combining classical tendencies, fusion, folk and more. "New Impressionnist" is an excellent compilation CD that contains tracks from "Everyman", "Urban Tango", "Visitation" and "Katkavaaran"... and is probably as good start.

Late September 1997, "Pewit" POHJOLA's new studio album is finally released after five years since "Changing Waters". The musicians are the same as on "Changing Waters". In May 2001, Pekka released "Views", his first solo album in quite some time.

CONCLUSION: "You do not have to be a fan of progressive rock, fusion or jazz rock to appreciate his majestic melody lines."

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PEKKA POHJOLA discography


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PEKKA POHJOLA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.18 | 98 ratings
Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva
1972
4.23 | 172 ratings
Harakka Bialoipokku [Aka: B The Magpie]
1974
3.73 | 115 ratings
Keesojen Lehto [Aka: The Mathematician's Air Display; The Consequences Of Indecisions]
1977
4.12 | 169 ratings
Visitation
1979
3.86 | 57 ratings
Pekka Pohjola Group: Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme
1980
3.76 | 43 ratings
Urban Tango
1982
3.59 | 42 ratings
Jokamies [Aka: Everyman]
1983
3.51 | 36 ratings
Space Waltz
1985
4.02 | 36 ratings
Flight Of The Angel
1986
4.07 | 32 ratings
Sinfonia Nº 1
1990
3.46 | 30 ratings
Changing Waters
1992
3.88 | 37 ratings
Pewit
1997
4.02 | 37 ratings
Views
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Make My Day (Orrenmaa Band)
2009

PEKKA POHJOLA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 13 ratings
Pekka Pohjola Live in Japan
1995
4.00 | 21 ratings
Heavy Jazz - Live in Helsinki and Tokyo
1995

PEKKA POHJOLA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

PEKKA POHJOLA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.96 | 8 ratings
New Impressionist
1987
4.26 | 12 ratings
Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva / Harakka Bialoipokku
1989
4.17 | 9 ratings
Beauty and the Beast (Pekka Pohjola with UMO Jazz Orchestra)
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
Solo In The Seventies
2015

PEKKA POHJOLA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Impun Tango
1982

PEKKA POHJOLA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Urban Tango by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.76 | 43 ratings

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Urban Tango
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars In Finland, as in many other countries such as Italy, the 80's was a very anti-prog decade. Pekka Pohjola (formerly of Wigwam) was just about the only Finnish prog artist to continue releasing albums at a relatively steady pace during the eighties, without completely losing progressive approach. In 1980 Pekka Pohjola Group toured in the Scandinavia. After Ippe Kätkä had replaced Vesa Aaltonen on drums, the album Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme (1980) was made in a short time on improvisational ground. I'm not deeply fond of that four-track album, but the divorce- themed melancholic piece 'Inke and Me' is among the finest Pohjola compositions. The divorce however was followed by a difficult, alcohol-filled era in his life, but he made a return -- sober, and with his long hair cut short -- with this album, the first one on Pohjola's own record label.

Featuring new collaborators, guitarist Peter Lerche, keyboardist Jussi Liski and drummer Leevi Leppänen, the fairly synth oriented Urban Tango started a new chapter in Pohjola's music. Especially compared to the previous album, there is a melodic tightness unheard before, even though the pieces are again pretty long. 'Imppu's Tango' is an outgoing, playful fusion piece with a brass-like sharpness and nice changes in tempo. T. T. Oksala, who was soon to make a grade as a rock/pop producer, guests on Roland guitar synth. 'New Impressionist' lasts over 15 minutes, and admittedly it's not as progressive as a piece of that length would better be, but it has a fresh, sophisticated soundscape.

'Heavy Jazz' became a gig perennial. The title is appropriate as the rhythm is really heavy. In the halfway comes a lighter section focusing on Lerche's bright electric guitar before returning to the heaviness. The vocal numbers in Pohjola's entire solo output are extremely scarce. The nearly 12-minute 'Urban Caravan' features rather unsatisfactory vocals of Kassu Halonen (better known as a songwriter for several other artists), but the composition itself is quite progressive and dynamic after the slow-paced first movement. The rough, throaty vocals remind me at times of Mike Oldfield's voice in the song 'Five Miles Out'.

Much better song is the relatively peaceful 'Silent Decade' (4:13) which originally was the B side of 'Imppu's Tango' single and is featured as a bonus on the album's reissues. Esa Kaartamo is a very good vocalist, perhaps with a little resemblance to both Jukka Gustavson and Jim Pembroke of Wigwam, and the song has sincere emotion.

With a few more separate pieces of shorter average length this album could have been better, but I'll let the rare beauty of 'Silent Decade' push my 3½ stars upwards. Anyway, surprisingly solid, and still fresh sounding album for its time.

 Views by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.02 | 37 ratings

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Views
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Jazz-Rock Fusion legend Pekka Pohjola's final contribution to humankind finds the genius going back to his truth, to his soul. Though this is mostly jazz-rock fusion, there is a lot of jazz and smooth jazz-pop here as well.

1. 'Waves" (6:56) gorgeous soprano sax in the lead over piano and orchestra. (14/15)

2. "The Red Porsche" (5:00) funk-jazz from the 1980s--clearly inspired by the Ghostbusters soundtrack. (8.5/10)

3. "Metropolitan" (14:05) opening very much like an AFTER CRYING classically-influenced piece, piano and Pekka's bass take over the second and third minutes--though jazz horns play a very strong role as well. I'm reminded of several 1970s television and film soundtracks as I listen to this. At the five minute mark a kind of "Birdland" bass and layered horns take the lead. These horn arrangements are pretty cool--very sophisticated. Strings are also nice. The old- fashioned big band feel only gets stronger as the piano takes the lead soloist position. At 11:20 things return to the AFTER CRYING orchestral motif of the opening. (26/30) 4. "Views" (7:34) pretty and well composed but a little too saccharine/syrupy for me--more "jazz lite" than progressive rock or even Jazz-Rock Fusion. (12.75/15)

5. "Us" (11:32) easily the most unique, refreshing, and nonderivative song on the album (which is GOOD), I can definitely hear some of the idiosyncratic tastes for melody and rhythm that seems common to all Finns in this excellent song. By the time we're deep into the fifth minute I'm feeling a very strong PAT METHENY GROUP vibe. This is really awesome! Fun and upbeat and makes me want to dance! Then at the 6:00 mark all but piano and occasional space synth flourish support an excellent jazz bass solo. Things amp up for a little bridge just before the eight-minute mark before we get another shift--a downshift into. This is such a delightful song! Though the congealment of the final ninety seconds again brings me back to 1970s film scores (think Arthur or St. Elmo's Fire), it's still wonderful to hear. (19.75/20)

Total Time: 45:37

A-/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazz-rock fusion from one of the old masters!

 Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.18 | 98 ratings

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Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Kingsnake

5 stars Perfect jazzrockfusion with hints of symphonic prog and folk. This is a solo-album by a bassplayer, so you can expect some extended bass-soloiing, but it's never tedious or boring, because the drums/percussion accompanies it. Of course there's also a lot of organ and violinplaying by Pekka, wich is also something to cheer for. Pekka's bassplaying is impeccable, but drummer Reino Laine is also very strong.

It reminds me a bit of Return to Forever and Tony William's Lifetime (but without the guitars, of course). Because it's playful, well produced and it rocks. That's why I like jazzrockfusion, because it rocks. I can imagine not everyone will be into this, but I like it very much. This is the kind of record that's still strong after 50 years.

 Pekka Pohjola Live in Japan  by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Live, 1995
4.05 | 13 ratings

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Pekka Pohjola Live in Japan
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by begnagrad

4 stars Pekka"s discography is filled with great albums, one of the few musicians who delivered quality music in every single one of them, a rare thing, many times I have been so disapointed at solo albums from seminal players, expecting some greatness, related to the bands they play with.

In this live album we find yet again another jewel from Pekka Pohjola, excellent playing and a great selection of songs, from different eras, in a single album, one wonders what else was performed and recorded while in Japan, surely enough material for a double album. If you enjoy his music, and don't know this live one, it surely will make you happy.

 Beauty and the Beast (Pekka Pohjola with UMO Jazz Orchestra) by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2010
4.17 | 9 ratings

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Beauty and the Beast (Pekka Pohjola with UMO Jazz Orchestra)
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by begnagrad

4 stars Pekka Pohjola has been a source of inspiration for this listener, one of the most consistent musicians who delivered in all his albums not only great music but great writing.

What we have here is a magical album if you enjoy Pekka's music, all compositions are his save 1 collaboration and UMOi s by far and wide a great band, a music institution that counts with professional players in its ranks.

When musicians step out of "your" confort zone, meaning a style that challenges you or you do not fancy, then the listener is put in a difficult position, how to rate an album in a style you do not appretiate or like?

A different album it is if you are expecting the Pekka Pohjola of always, however, this jewel may bring enormous pleasure if listened in its own right.

A 4.5 star for me ... however the rating isn't possible so I have to settle for a 4

Enjoy

 Pekka Pohjola Group: Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.86 | 57 ratings

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Pekka Pohjola Group: Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars If I'm not mistaken this is the only PEKKA POHJOLA album to feature the word "Group" after his name. This time the line-up /instrumentation is as elemental and unvaried as it gets with Pohjola: the composer playing bass only, accompanied by Seppo Tyni (guitars), Pekka Tyni (keyboads) and the drummer Ippe Kätkä. The 44-minute album consists of only four tracks between 7'34 and 14'33 in length.

The opening title track ('lohikäärme' means dragon) is the longest of them. It sounds very good, especially for the calmer, rhytmically clear basic part with distinctive drum sounds. Time and time again it evolves into more hectic "chorus" part in which the electric guitar screams like a frightened person, to return back. It also contains a long guitar solo, but frankly the composition is seriously over-extended for its musical substance.

'Tehdasmusiikkia' (= Factory music) is a Fusion number centering on a playful guitar melody that appears in turns with the more soaring melodic lines. The unmistakable Pohjola touch is heard in the little details but this is far from the finest music he made. I'm not fond of 'Sampoliini' either, a fast joyful number that seems to be primarily a place to show off the musicians' virtuosity.

'Inke ja mä' (= Inke and me; referring to Pekka's divorced wife) is the highlight, and in my opinion among the best Pohjola pieces ever. Unlike this album in general, it is full of emotion, and that emotion is pretty melancholic, thoughtful and introspective. The way the repetitive "chorus" melody grows and grows -- orher movements being mostly very delicate -- is truly marvelous. This track is a perfect example of Pekka Pohjola's unique style. Since the album as a whole is not that interesting to me, three stars will do.

 Visitation by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.12 | 169 ratings

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Visitation
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Pekka Pohjola's "Visitation", 1977, is not exactly the best place to start Pohjola's aquaintance, music composition wise. Better yet check on the flawless and clockwise performances by each member at every single moment. Amazing!

It's songwriting travels all the expected routes and shares the expected amount of atonalities and abrupt speed fast detours to be featured in a Prog page.

A perfectly threaded prog-eclectic-Rock/Jazz approach which includes a fusion of Latin flavors, "classic" Jazz and non prog strictly influences like Classical music and Big Band Jazz or Swing.

Once you see beyond its apparent "stiffness", you will notice its charms, yet the catchy riffs, more than once, are more annoying than catching, but its comedy like instrumental irreverence saves it from being just that.

Impeccable performances and a lot of spectacular highlights! Stick to that and start to imagine that maybe Mr. Frank Zappa will shed on some hilarious lyrics wherever he is.

3.5 PA stars.

 Views by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.02 | 37 ratings

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Views
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars And this one then, the second (but the first collaborator's) review for the final PEKKA POHJOLA studio album. A taste of ignorance, compared to the large number of the early PP albums. Views was not a "band album" in the way the preceding Pewit was, instead the recordings were made in a half year's timespan with hardly the musicians of even each individual piece present in the studio at the same time. This boundary-free approach was the manager Tapio Korjus's idea. By the way, the long guest list includes Pekka's sons Ilmari on trombone and Verneri on trumpet. The three leaflet paintings are again by his dear Rita.

7-minute 'Waves' is beautifully serene, classically oriented, moody and Finnish-sounding opener featuring e.g. Laura Hynninen's harp, cello and Tapani Rinne's soprano sax. Very peaceful all the way compared to many Pohjola classics, and for that exact reason a nice addition to his catalogue. 'The Red Porche' originally written in 1993 for a stage play on Charles Bukowski, is exceptionally a funky, good humoured SONG with lyrics (vocals by Sami Saari, Kim Lönnholm and Pemo Ojala). My darling said it reminded her of the Ghostbusters song! There's also the certain FRANK ZAPPA-like wit in this well done performance. You gotta like it if you firstly accept such unexpectable move from Pekka Pohjola.

'Metropolitan' (14:05) is an elegant, many-coloured composition with elements reminding of American (Las Vegas style) entertainment music. There are strings, horns, reeds and a pretty unspectacular synth backing, but placed in an elegant manner along the way, ie. not building too massive sound layers. Not among the finest or the most original music he ever wrote, but very pleasant.

The title track (7:34) is also rather mellow; the sound is very fresh and suitably light. It is notably less adventurous or crescendo-like than several Pohjola classics, but enjoyable. You don't always need such virtuosity or dynamics! The final track 'Us' (11:32) ought to have some more power in order to save the album from being too toothless. Yes, especially the brass brings some spine, and the distinctive bass in the middle is an unmistakable Pekka Pohjola moment. Again, not necessarily among the greatest Pohjola compositions ever, but very good and easy to enjoy. This concerns the whole album that indeed has a wide scattering of ratings. It leaves me with a positive feeling, hence four stars.

 Pewit by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.88 | 37 ratings

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Pewit
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Here's the first review for the second last of PEKKA POHJOLA's studio albums. The core band was his longest-living one, from 1992 to 2002: maestro himself plays only bass (except keyboards on 'the Great Knight of the Rock'), accompanied by Seppo Kantonen (p, keyb), Markku Kanerva (g) and Anssi Nykänen (dr). 'Toy Rock' features also three saxophonists, and 'Ordinary Music' a string sextet. Percussionist Mongo Aaltonen appears on two tracks. No compression was used with this album (=the silent moments are even more silent and the louder moments louder). Pewit is 62 minutes long, almost half an hour longer than several of his early classics; quality naturally always comes before quantity, but the length makes the listener more forgiving towards the least favourite moments.

The opener 'Rita' (11:23), named after Pekka's then new love, can be listed as one of the great Pohjola classics, as it grows from delicate simplicity to majestic heights. The beautiful melody, the emotional depth, the superb dynamics and the compositional full circle... they're all here. 'Melkein' (13:47) also has marvelous melodic sections, but I don't enjoy the idiotic stomp! stomp! sections. The better parts, featuring e.g. synth soloing, are lovely. 'Pewit' starts delicately with an accordion-sounding keyboard, piano and acoustic guitar, joined soon by bass and drums; the music grows gradually in a familiar Pohjola style, and the electric guitar carries the gorgeous melody like in a STEVE HACKETT number.

'The Great Knight...' has a separate, long piano intro full of Rachmaninoff-like romanticism, while the band piece unfortunately features a very naive, tivoli-type joyful approach that I don't like. I can't understand why the equally joyful 'Toy Rock' has a 40-second intro of just intendedly poorer sonic quality. Here are the mentioned saxophones, and the groove gets quite wild at times, but truly not my cup of tea.

The 19-minute 'Ordinary Music' is a totally unpredictable musical journey featuring even some atonal experimenting. It's a difficult and perhaps a bit disjointed but still quite interesting piece of UNordinary music. All in all, Pewit is an album of big contrasts and dynamics, most likely spellbinding the listener with certain moments and annoying him/her with some others. 3½ stars rounded up for all the musical bravery and a good leaflet layout with Rita Hartwig's paintings.

 Visitation by POHJOLA, PEKKA album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.12 | 169 ratings

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Visitation
Pekka Pohjola Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars PEKKA POHJOLA's fourth album Visitation is regarded by many as his finest, "the true musical fruition his early albums had clearly promised" (Robert Silverstein's liner notes, originally on Warner's CD re-release, unimaginatively circulated also on Svart Records' recent vinyl gatefold release). I personally prefer the debut Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva (1972), but this one indeed is more energetic and modern, more virtuotic and bold, sonically more brilliant, and it contains both the guitar that was absent on the debut and the woodwind/brass that was absent on the Oldfield-collaboration Keesojen Lehto (1977). One sad thing is the shorness of this album: 32 minutes.

I'm not going to argue against all the hype, but much of the music is not exactly up to my taste, not the Pohjola style I'm fond of; it's slightly too sharp and brassy at the cost of the more introspective & emotional side, with the clearest exception in the lovely closing tune 'Try to Remember'. I openly admit that my fourth star is more objective than subjective, but no less deserved anyway: anyone declaring Visitation a masterpiece is absolutely right, at least if (s)he truly loves it personally.

Only six tracks in total, why not some words on each. 'Strange Awakening' has a great sound especially in the beginning featuring an echoed piano, and the soprano sax solo by Pekka Pöyry is awesome as is the outstanding bass near the end, but as a composition per se it could be a bit less repetitive. 'Vapour Trails' is very adrenalin-dosed jazz rocker in which guitarist Seppo Tyni (Pohjola's bandmate from The Group) takes the leading role.

'Image...' has a semi-melancholic depth which is occasionally buried in the guitar/brass-heavy arrangement; with more elegant and introspective approach throughout the track I'd enjoy it even more, but those fond of virtuoso playing will find a lot to enjoy here. Very bold and rhythmic 'Dancing in the Dark' is my least fave track, graced by e.g. Markku Johansson's trumpet solo. Guitar is again unnecessarily loud. 'The Sighting' opens interestingly without guitars and percussion but the arrangement becomes again quite heavy. Aale Lindgren's oboe is a nice detail in it.

Finally the intimate and introspective side takes over in the beginning of the marvelous 'Try to Remember': this would also function as an example of a masterful and extremely rich arrangement. It features the woodwinds and strings of The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Here the various instruments are not climbing on each other's neck as on the more hectic tracks, instead the arrangement has several phases using different instruments. A masterpiece combining the emotion, virtuosity and grandiosity, and one of the finest Pekka ever composed. Risto Kurkinen's cover drawing is not as good as on Keesojen Lehto, but it definitely works better on the vinyl format.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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