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Pekka Pohjola in memoriam (13.1.1952 - 27.11.2008)

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Pekka View Drop Down
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    Posted: November 27 2010 at 08:07

It was exactly two years ago today at an Uzva gig at the club Kuudes Linja in Helsinki, when the band introduced a track by dedicating it to the memory of Pekka Pohjola. "Memory?!" I exclaimed, and the girl standing next to me informed me that Finland's most legendary bassist had just died that morning. To honor the anniversary of the passing of the four string master, I'll take a look at his solo career, as he was in addition to his skills on the low end instrument (which attracted the attention of Frank Zappa to the degree that he asked Pohjola to join his band at one point) a respected composer and band leader, whose career in the forefront of Finnish art rock spread over four decades.


I admit my attempts haven't been that numerous, but I've never gotten a good grip of Wigwam, the band which brought Pohjola his first bit of true recognition. But the solo career starting with 1972's Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva is very close to my heart. The debut is clearly an effort by Pohjola the bassist, an example of which is the wild bass solo jam lasting for minutes in the track Metsonpeliä. But the soon-to-be-familiar compositional style merging prog, jazz and classical is already evident on this debut album. On the following works Pohjola the composer takes the lead, but there's still plenty of instrumental acrobatics to be heard. The second album, Harakka Bialoipokku (B the Magpie) fantastically utilizes instrumental music to tell a story, which is included in textual form as well. It was a great surprise to learn, that the music and the text were actually developed by two different people completely separately, so the perfect match is a complete coinsidence. Harakka is perhaps my favourite Pohjola album along with the fourth, Visitation. Guitars usually had a very limited role in Pohjola's music during this era, the exception being the third album Keesojen Lehto (Mathematician's Air Display), which has a strong input from Mike Oldfield, under whose name the album was mistakenly put in some editions even though the vision and the compositions were all pure Pohjola.


 


The synth craze that swept over the music world in the 80s causes its share of damage to the Pohjola output as well. After the relatively free-form jam oriented Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme starting the decade, all of the eighties albums, Urban TangoJokamies/EverymanSpace Waltz and Flight of the Angel are plagued by the somewhat plastic sounds in the synth and sometimes drum department. But they contain a good number of excellent compositions, like for example the Space Waltz title track and Urban Tango's New Impressionist. The latter album also contains an unfortunate deviation into the field of vocalized music, very much ruined by the testosterone filled booming of the singer Kassu Halonen. Jokamies/Everyman was a soundtrack to a TV program of the same name, and the synth landscapes and electronic drums don't appeal to me very much without the accompanying pictures; my least favourite Pohjola album. In the 80s Pohjola's melodies got a good deal of new grandiose heaviness to contradict the more dexterous runs of previous years, and wind instruments gave the limelight to a more traditional band sound with keys and guitars. While the 70s output is perhaps closest to my analogue prog heart, this era gets a nice amount of spins in my player as well.


 


Six years after Flight of the Angel, after composing big band material and his first symphony, Pohjola returned to band action with Changing Waters, the title track of which was originally released on Space Waltz. In the early 90s most of the previous decade's sound flaws were swept away, and the album is a more comfortable listen than some of its predecessors, even though the compositional material may fall a bit behind, despite the brilliant Benjamin opening and closing the album. Pewit and Views at the turn of the century brought the solo career to a handsome close, both featuring some of his finest tracks. In addition to the compositions Pewit shines especially in the sound department, the changes in dynamics are brilliant and the drums, recorded in a stone walled corridor of the studio, are massive at times and punchy always. Views contains one of the biggest contrasts between two adjacent pieces of music, when the opening track Waves, a stunningly beautiful composition for a small ensemble of strings, winds and harp changes to The Red Porche, which has Pohjola at his most humorous and funkiest. It actually might be for me the only really enjoyable vocal track of his entire career.


 


In addition to his solo career and the albums made with Wigwam, Pohjola appeared in many other projects as well, for example The Group, Made in Sweden and Unisono, leaving an immensely rich musical legacy. Tonight I'll raise my can of sauna beer to him.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Andrea Cortese Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2010 at 08:15
I bought "Mathematician's Air Display" remastered version the last summer while I was in Florence. 
 
It was the first thing I heard from Pohjola Pekka. Well, the typical Oldfield's guitar is quite evident but I have to agree on the fact that Pojhola was a great musician and composer. I will go on collect other albums from his solo output.
 
Only recently, after reading a post on this forum, I realized that he passed on two years ago... he was only 56.... how sad.


Edited by Andrea Cortese - November 27 2010 at 08:17
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Pekka Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2010 at 08:19
I was discussing this yesterday with a work buddy who's very familiar with the prog scene over here, and he said Pohjola was found calmly sitting on his armchair that morning, so perhaps it was a relatively painless death...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Andrea Cortese Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2010 at 08:22
^^^
 
In fact the other guy said that fans don't even know what happened to him, if it was a disease or what...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Pekka Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2010 at 08:26
I don't think it's ever been announced officially, but the best guess would be an alcohol related heart attack. There's a biography book written about him, only in Finnish though, and in it he's very open about his ongoing struggles with the drink. I wasn't really aware of it at the time, but those who were weren't surprised by his passing.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Slartibartfast Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2010 at 10:34
Thanks for the clips, a most excellent artist.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote questionsneverknown Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2010 at 11:00
Wonderful to see this tribute to a great artist.

Kiitos.
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The damage that we do just goes on and on and on but not long enough.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Pekka Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2010 at 14:44
Olkaa hyvät Smile

I forgot to mention that this is a loose translation of a blog entry I wrote in Finnish here http://observaatio.blogspot.com/2010/11/kaimalle.html Have fun deciphering that Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Quote akaBona Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 29 2010 at 05:39
Originally posted by Pekka

Olkaa hyvät Smile

I forgot to mention that this is a loose translation of a blog entry I wrote in Finnish here http://observaatio.blogspot.com/2010/11/kaimalle.html Have fun deciphering that Tongue


KIITOS ie. THANKS for opening this topic. Pekka Pohjola deserves all the recognition possible and you have done an excellent job!

It was 1972 when I one Saturday took a bus to Helsinki and went straight to Digelius Music to buy Pekka Pohjola's first solo album Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva. Since that this first one has always been one of my big big favourites. Same goes with the second one Harakka Bialoipokku (including Coste Apetrea from Samla Mammas Manna), a total masterpiece and the forth one, Visitation. These 3 are highly recommended, but the level of quality is high whatever Pohjola album you choose.

And if someone is interested Pekka Pohjala and fusion, pick Orrenmaa Band's Make My Day (2009). Guitarist Tuppu Orrenmaa featuring Pekka Pohjola on bass, Billy Cobham on drums and Tower Of Power horns! This "killer" was one of the latest recordings Pohjola made.




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Post Options Post Options   Quote akaBona Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 29 2010 at 05:42
Originally posted by Andrea Cortese

I bought "Mathematician's Air Display" remastered version the last summer while I was in Florence. 
 
It was the first thing I heard from Pohjola Pekka. Well, the typical Oldfield's guitar is quite evident but I have to agree on the fact that Pojhola was a great musician and composer. I will go on collect other albums from his solo output.
 
Only recently, after reading a post on this forum, I realized that he passed on two years ago... he was only 56.... how sad.


I have friends in Grosseto and I will spend some time in Tuscany next September. If then you're still missing some Pohjola music let me know. When we come to Florence I can bring you the missing ones Big smile
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Post Options Post Options   Quote snobb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 29 2010 at 05:55
Pekka Pohjola was one of the greatest Finnish rock musician. Thanks for opening this tribute thread.

BTW, I have Orrenmaa Band's Make My Day, mix of prog fusion and Latin, Cobham is great on this album as well
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Andrea Cortese Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 29 2010 at 07:29
Originally posted by akaBona

Originally posted by Andrea Cortese

I bought "Mathematician's Air Display" remastered version the last summer while I was in Florence. 
 
It was the first thing I heard from Pohjola Pekka. Well, the typical Oldfield's guitar is quite evident but I have to agree on the fact that Pojhola was a great musician and composer. I will go on collect other albums from his solo output.
 
Only recently, after reading a post on this forum, I realized that he passed on two years ago... he was only 56.... how sad.


I have friends in Grosseto and I will spend some time in Tuscany next September. If then you're still missing some Pohjola music let me know. When we come to Florence I can bring you the missing ones Big smile
 
I will, thanks!!!
 
I live near Venice (70 km to the north). I was in Florence only as a tourist... eh ehehee
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Rottenhat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 08 2010 at 13:21
In memory of Pekka Pohjola, I will write down some memories I had from him playing with the band XL on the Finnish Ruisrock rock festival in Turku sometimes in the beginning of the 00's.

His band played in a tent, and not on the bigger scenes that usually is for more commercial acts (usually Suomi Rock bands and big heavy metal acts from England or the States.)

The opening track was what I remember the most, the set began with just one member coming in on the scene and starting playing, then the second one comes in minutes later and starts adding to the track, and then each member comes in one at a time. It had quite a spectacular effect. 

The set was wonderful, even if the bottle of Vodka I was able to smuggle in may have added a bit to the experience... 

R.I.P. Pekka. You will be missed.

Here's some videos of Pekka on the Finnish Elävä Arkisto.

I can't get a straight link to the videos, but if you type Pekka Pohjola in the search box, you will find some videos, some are interviews and some are live performances.






Edit: I googled it and it seemed to have been in 1999...










Edited by Rottenhat - December 08 2010 at 13:42
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 10 2010 at 21:24
Originally posted by Slartibartfast

Thanks for the clips, a most excellent artist.
 
If you ever get a chance ... catch the EXPOSED dvd with Mike Oldfield ... and guess who plays the Fender Bass ... yeah ... I just watched it again ... and I have to tell you that what I love the most in there is ... in order:
 
Pierre Moerlin
Pekka
Maddy
...
... end of story!
 
When you get done, it's like these people gave their unbelievable best ... to a piece of music, and made it even better and greater.
 
I'm not sure you can ask for more ... ever!
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Neil C Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 04 2011 at 13:37
What sad news.... I was only listening to Visitation the other day ..... a great musician with his own take on harmony and really his very own musical approach..... and such a talented instrumentalist too. How wonderful that this tribute has been put together to mark this man's work.... Great musicians like Pekka Pohjola need to be remembered because their work really is timeless.... 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Rottenhat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 17 2011 at 09:51
Originally posted by moshkito

[QUOTE=Slartibartfast]Thanks for the clips, a most excellent artist.
 
If you ever get a chance ... catch the EXPOSED dvd with Mike Oldfield ... and guess who plays the Fender Bass ... yeah ... I just watched it again ... and I have to tell you that what I love the most in there is ... in order:
 
Was that the one when the threw paper airplanes all over the place?



Edited by Rottenhat - February 17 2011 at 15:47
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Tavastia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 21 2011 at 14:59
Yep, that's the one Rottenhat.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 30 2011 at 07:09
I haven´t seen this thread before. I love Pekka´s work. 
Anybody out there who´s got the Jokamies album? 
One of those 80s sounding albums, but somehow it works on this. Feels like a revolt against the very thing the album´s built up by. Sounds crazy I know, but through the bleakness of the production - the plastics - emerges some kind of beautiful mirror, that portrays everything around it in a very unflattering way. Like a sonic courtroom or something. 
Still Jokamies sounds great, just like Fugazi - even though they really shouldn´t... 
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