At the dawning of the 21st century, there are many musical sheep but few shepherds. Finnish pianist and composer Mika Pohjola, now a resident of New York, is one of but a handful of young musicians who have successfully assimilated the messages of the masters and spun their own wondrous peregrinations.
The son of a Helsinki-based jazz guitarist with a great record collection, Pohjola never heard jazz live. By the age of twelve, he was hooked on Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Charlie Parker. At fifteen, Pohjola moved to Sweden in 1987, where he found a teacher, Alvaro Is, "who taught me the mechanics of improvisation and harmony -- everything you need to know to play the music and more." Pohjola graduated from the Swedish Royal Academy in 1992, and continued his studies at Berklee, where his teachers included Gary Burton, Herb Pomeroy and Ed Bedner.
When asked about influences, Pohjola reports that "I'm always seeking ways to make my music richer, to improve it, for it to become something that makes it more valuable to me. But I would say some of my musical influences are Weather Report, Stevie Wonder, Paul Bley, Aleksandr Scriabin, Olivier Messiaen, the Bulgarian Women's Choir, Bach and Debussy."
Pohjola has released many CDs under his own name. There are literally hundreds of young musicians vying for the attention of the listening public, yet few possess the ingenuity and stylistic balance so evident in the music of this transplanted Finnish pianist. Although many call his music Jazz, I believe that every truly creative musician is a master chef, putting together a unique amalgam of ingredients to produce a truly inventive and tasty concoction. And so it is with the music of Mika Pohjola, which embraces classical influences, folk music, the sounds of New York, and something very deep from the heart of its creator.
It's a crowded arena for jazz these days, yet, somehow, the truth manages to get through. When the noted Jazz critic Ira Gitler, not an easy man to please, heard his music, he told me, "this guy's a comer." Yes, we're going to be hearing a lot more from Mika Pohjola.
Check out the artist's website:
1. The Ice That Breaks
2. A Farmer's Dream
3. And She Appeared
4. The Secret of the Castle
7. Muistoja TorkkelinmÃ¤eltÃ¤
9. Swedish Folksong Off Broadway
10. A Visit to Look Forward To