Esa Pietilä´s multifaceted expression of saxophone deals with many different musical “genres” and also mixes them very creatively. He can be found appearing as soloist for chamber orchestra or other larger ensembles (such as Avanti! chamber Orchestra with conductor Esa Pekka Salonen in 2014), and performing with his many duo collaborations with contemporary classical & new music chamber musicians, playing totally free improvisations at his solo concerts, performing with his own contemporary & freejazz oriented groups & projects eg. the latest award winning “Liberty Ship” quartet (which album “Approaching” voted for “The Album of the Year 2013, by the New York City Jazz Record).
Already at young age Esa Pietilä´s playlist included a lot of avantgarde and freejazz artists like Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman and of course John Coltrane. He has studied at Sibelius Academy Jazz Departement, Helsinki, Finland (years 1987-1996), played in many big bands and national small band projects etc. and took part on numerous masterclasses and private lessons of e.g. David Liebman and others in USA .
Besides his Liberty Ship, solo saxophone, Esa Pietilä 3 and other aforementioned projects, Esa has been expanding his musical “playground” with contemporary classic music genre, mixing together free jazz, improvisation and composed music. He also performs as a soloist with chamber orchestras & larger orchestras. In 2013 performed the premiere performance of Saxophone Concerto “Grounds” by widely known Finnish composer Eero Hämeenniemi. Eero´s concerto “Grounds” (taylor made for Esa) was performed by Se ensemble with famous conductor Santtu Matias Rouvali, having room for Esa´s improvisational skills to shine also in the concerto) The concerto was performed with Finnish Se ensamble and conducted Santtu-matias Rouvali… in 2014 Esa had the privilege to performed with world class conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen & Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. The concerto he premiered was called “Graffiti Play” (written by himself) for saxophone, improvising, contemporary jazz trio and chamber orchestra.
Pietilä has a “mission” to premiere new saxophone concertos and other larger scale works for saxophone & orchestra. On the next years, there will be performances of such works from Finnish composers, from Esa himself and others. He is also interested on hearing suggestions from composers and conductors to perform and premiere various works from the field of today´s contemporary music.
few new duos of Esa has also born to the compound field of improv & contemporary music. The duo with accordionist Veli Kujala in which they both include motion censored & camera censored live-electronics in their improvised & composed duo context. Another duo “Ennenkuulumatonta” with kantele artist Eija Kankaanranta is also an interesting set-up with contemporary music & improvisation.
As a composer, Esa has composed music not only for the aforementioned groups, but has also been commissioned to write larger scale contemporary compositions for e.g. Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, Zagros Ensamble, UMO Jazz Orchestra, different sized string orchestras, saxophone quartet, string quartet and for numerous jazz productions for the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation YLE. Esa has also written music for solo instruments, various mixed instrumentation groups and a multitude of national projects ranging from dance theater pieces to documentary films. For the near future, on the composing table, Esa has pieces for small contemporary ensembles & saxophone, string quartet & saxophone, concerto for chamber orchestra with electric violin & saxophone, saxophone concerto with symphony orchestra etc.
His playing and recordings has been thanked by such internationally well-known critics, reviewers and editors like Stuart Nicholson (UK), Laurence Donohue-Greene (AllAboutJazz-New York), Henning Bolte (The Netherlands), Don Williamson (Jazzreview.com), Robert Spencer (Cadence USA), Matthew Wuethrich (ALL ABOUT JAZZ) etc. His Liberty Ship Quartet´s album “Approaching” was nominated as an ” ALBUM OF THE YEAR – Best new releases 2013″ by The New York City Jazz Record magazine.
Esa´s ogroups & projects has stabilized his position performing on the national / international circuit, and have led him to play in USA, Canada, Japan, Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Iceland, England, USA, Australia, New Zeeland, Brazil and Cuba. He has performed with the names like Paal Nilssen-Love, Michael Jefry Stevens, Harvey Sorgen, Heiri Kaenzig, Jeff Siegel, Karl Berger, Mark Helias, John Esposito, Mathias Eick, Iro Haarla, Franziska Baumann, Christoph Baumann, Banz Oester, Mike Nock, Claudio Fasoli, Anders Begcrantz, Odean Pope, Raoul Björkenheim, Brian Melvin, Markku Ounaskari, Uffe Krokfors, Olavi Louhivuori, Aki Rissanen, Antti Lötjönen, Veli Kujala, Eija Kankaanranta, Lasse Marhaug, Tommi Keränen, Eivin Lonning, Simo laihonen, Oyvind Storesund, Ville Rauhala, Jari Hongisto, Sami Sippola, Stine Janvind Motland, Filip Augustson, Hilmar Jensson, Arthur Kell, Otto Gardner, Johannes Mössinger, Kjartan Valdemarsson, Fabian Kuratli, Jarmo Savolainen, Mika Kallio, Mikko Innanen, Seppo Kantonen, Ville Herrala and Erling Kroner. Esa has also stood on stage with many global jazz luminaries, e.g. Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Carla Bley, David Liebman, Vince Mendoza, Maria Schneider, Ray Anderson…
Recently Esa has mostly performed with his 2012 born Liberty Ship Quartet, his improvised solo saxophone concerts, as soloist for orchestras, duo with drummer Harvey Sorgen (USA), duo with kantele artist Eija Kankaanranta, duo with accordionist Veli Kujala, with Esa Pietilä 3, with “Brain Inventory Trio” together with USA pianist MIchael Jefry Stevens and cellist Juho Laitinen from Finland, duo with Jeff Siegel (NYC), trio with pianist john Esposito (USA), trio with drummer Mika Kallio & Swiss bass player Heiri Kaenzig, trio with Estonian guitarist Jaak Sooäär & Mika kallio (drs) and projects with his Esa Pietilä 3 together with Swiss trio “Potato du Jour”
In 2007 Pietilä started a series of totally improvised solo saxophone concerts, which will continue annually in Finland & abroad. In 2009 he released the album “Karhea” – a complitely improvised album of solo recordings.
Along peforming his music at international festivals, Esa Pietilä finds time to give masterclasses on improvisation which he has done eg. Berklee School of Music Boston, Musichochschule Lucern Switzerland, Privatuniversitet Vienna, Malmö University Sweden, Tonlistarskol Reykjavik, Jazz Music department Graz Austria, Conservatorio “Giuseppi Tartini”, Triesti, Italy…Esa has also been a regular visiting teacher and lecturer at IASJ symposium led by Davib Liebman.
Latest, new challenge for him was to become the artistic director of 2014 born Helsinki Free Fall festival that presents many kinds of new music on the fields of contemporary music, contemporary jazz, new music & improvisation.
Picks from history…
On his mid twenties, after being noticed as a new “young lion” of the tenor sax in Finland, Pietilä´s international career got a big boost late 1998, as the Dutch label A-RECORDS /CHALLENGE released his album “Fastjoik”. This collection of individual and multifarious compositions was performed by Pietilä’s Finnish quartet – with the Swede trumpet virtuoso Anders Bergcrantz (trumpet), Pessi Levanto (piano), Ari-Pekka Anttila (bass) and Markku Ounaskari (drums). This group is captured on the aforementioned album “Fastjoik”.
Pietilä’s first own group “The Case”, Jarmo Savolainen on piano and keyboards, Jarmo Saari on guitar, Tuure Koski on bass, Markku Ounaskari on drums and Ricardo Padilla on percussion, released their debut album “Codes” in 1997. Finnish Onfonia saxophone-quartet, (Mikko Innanen, Pekka Pylkkänen, Markus Holkko, Esa Pietilä) has also been an important project for him in the past.
In Finland, apart from his own groups Esa Pietilä has also performed in the ranks of the UMO Jazz Orchestra (Helsinki), Espoo Big Band, plus numerous small band projects.