Accordionist Veli Kujala and saxophonist Esa Pietilä are both known as masters of their respective instruments, composers and master improvisers. Their new and innovative duo exploring the boundaries of written music and improvisation was formed in 2013. The duo incorporates elements from live electronics, microtonality, jazz and contemporary music.
Their debut performance in the Camerata concert hall at the Helsinki Music Centre in September 2013 proved the duos music to be a dazzling exposition of tonal color and a musical collage of mind expanding soundworlds and multilayered rhythms that transport the audience into magical musical places, that one couldn’t even dream of existing.
The concert experience is amplified with live-electronics in an exciting way by the duos use of motion detectors and cameras together with the live playing, sequencing and programming. Despite the small size of the group, their unique expression and sound can be described as massive, captivating, electric, virtuosic, filled with tension and even violent, but in contrast with a minimalistic and gently playful sonic landscape. With this duo almost anything is possible and no musical ground is sacred or impossible for them.
Veli Kujala has received accolades from numerous international competitions around the world. He has performed as a soloist with Avanti!, Gävle Symfoniorkester, Insomnio, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Kymi Sinfonietta, The Chamber Orchestra of Lapland, The Oulu Symphony Orchestra, The Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Vaasa City Orchestra, Västerås Sinfonietta and Zagros Ensemble to name a few. He is also active in the improvised and jazz music scene, most notable recent projects include the Brazilian-Ugric organic jazz of Pipoka, the eclectic Gourmet and Kalle Kalima’s K-18 that combines modern improvisation to avant-garde jazz. He has also been involved in several “Vapaat äänet”-projects working together with French jazz musicians. He has performed as the soloist in premieres of accordion concertos from Markus Fagerudd and Pekka Pohjola, double concerto for cello and accordion by Olli Virtaperko, concerto for quarter tone accordion by Sampo Haapamäki and double concerto for quarter tone accordion and accordion by Joachim F. W. Schneider.
Kujala has premiered solo and chamber music works from composers Kalevi Aho, Friedrich Goldmann, Paola Livorsi, Pasi Lyytikäinen, Uljas Pulkkis, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Osmo Tapio Räihälä, Tomi Räisänen, Vesal Valkama, Olli Virtaperko, Matthew Whittall and Helmut Zapf. He has received several grants from Arts Promotion Center Finland and other Finnish cultural foundations. He has performed in most European countries and United States.
Esa Pietilä is known as a musical visionary. His original and distinctive playing style, his own groups and improvised solo saxophone concerts have established him as a recognized performer in both Finnish and international festivals and other arenas. His groups have performed across the globe in the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia and Cuba. Pietilä has worked with several artists including Harvey Sorgen, Paal Nilssen-Love, Michael Jefry Stevens, Jeff Siegel, Karl Berger, Brian Melvin, Heiri Kaenzig, Christoph Baumann, Baenz Öster, Franziska Baumann, Mike Nock, Ron McClure, Mathias Eick, Claudio Fasoli, Anders Bergcrantz, Odean Pope, Raoul Björkenheim, Iro Haarla, Filip Augustson, John Esposito, Hilmar Jensson, Eero Hämeenniemi, Kjartan Valdemarsson, Fabian Kuratli, Jarmo Savolainen, Mikko Innanen, Mika Kallio, Olavi Louhivuori, Aki Rissanen, Antti Lötjönen,Simo Laihonen, Arthur Kell, Olavi Louhivuori, Aki Rissanen, Ville Herrala and Juho Laitinen.
As a composer he has written commissioned works for Avanti!, Zagros Ensemble, UMO and YLE. Esa has composed works for chamber orchestra, free jazz -trio and chamber orchestra, string orchestra, string orchestra and jazz quintet, big band, saxophone quartet, string quartet, french horn quartet, solo saxophone, solo piano, music for saxophone and tape, 11-piece big band, works for mixed groups and several works for small groups and duos. As a soloist he has premiered for example saxophone concerto “Grounds” by Eero Hämeenniemi who wrote the piece with Pietilä’s skills and improvisation in mind. Pietilä’s latest premiere was with the Zagros Ensemble with Esa as the featured soloist in April 2014. The album Approaching by his quartet Liberty Ship was named as Album of the Year by The New York City Jazz Record magazine. Finnish cultural foundations have supported Pietilä’s work numerous times.