Let me introduce you to my new music project with a young and talented singer Elina Virtanen. I heard Elina first time on a jam session in Helsinki and immediately thought that this is the type of singer i’ve been looking for. But looking for what? Now hold your horses and let me tell you a bit of background for the story.
For the last ten years I’ve been in love with a music style called gypsy jazz which can be said to be created by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli mainly in the 30s and 40s. Do you know Django? The “gypsy guitarist with two fingers”? This music style has some magic in it. It’s so fun to play it as a guitarist. Playing rhythm is a kind of a self-hypnosis therapy session and you can get so deep into the fine details of it. On the other hand playing solo is a very challenging because the instrument needs to be played in a certain way so that you get a good sound and projection out of it and this takes years of dedication. Not to mention what notes should you play! But when you get “there”, then it’s so rewarding with so much expressiveness. Gypsy jazz is a kind of movement with a lot of dedicated people. During this time i’ve also got to know what a dance style called lindy hop is by trying it myself by going to dance lessons, social dances and events. Swing music and lindy hop goes together like bread and butter. Lindy hop is basically a dance style which developed during the golden swing era of 30s and 40s by dedicated people like Frankie Manning, Herbert ”Whitey” White, ”Shorty” George Snowden etc. Since I started to dance lindy hop I realised that it’s not just a dance style but also a kind of movement with certain clothes, shoes and a lot of dedicated people. The people you meet in the social dances are probably the happiest people in this planet. It’s just impossible not to smile while you dance even if your cat had just died (or a weasel if you’re one of those hipsters in Kallio). I see a lot of similarities in history and in the people when I compare gypsy jazz and lindy hop.
In this point i want to mention some lovely, dedicated and passionate people from the swing dance scene in Helsinki i’ve had the pleasure to meet, help and work with just to show how amazing the scene has become. Some names in no particular order: Minna Marttila (Tuesday Night Hop), Tanja Wingerter & Karri Rasinmäki (Black Pepper Swing), Jaakko Kurttila and co (Sail Attic Swing), Laura Halttula (Jazz Factory), Arja Sahlberg (Blues Dance Mondays), Caroline Moinel & Andrzej Milosz (Swing Jam), Karita Ala-Savikota & Tiina Pasuri and Milla Leisso (Balboa Fridays) and Harri Hertell (In The Mood). Sorry if I don’t remember everybody.
I’ve played music for lindy hoppers for many years now and i’ve realised that it takes a certain dedication and vision to make that music work. It’s not only about the tempos but more about the delicate feeling inside the music. Usually gypsy jazz is more suitable for a faster dance styles for example balboa. So this new project is about bringing these two worlds together by fine tuning the gypsy jazz more suitable to lindy hoppers. I also want to explore more electric sounds as a soloist. So Elina Virtanen, who I met in a jam session, is a singer with a unique quality in her voice that fits perfectly to this project. Not only does her voice has old quality in it but she can really scat in a similar style you’ve heard Ella Fitzgerald scat! Elina also shares the same love for the swing era. To make this project special I’ve worked hard on transcribing a lot of the original versions (or the closest ones I’ve found) of the songs and comparing them to later versions such as Oscar Peterson’s, Ella Fitzgerald’s etc and made my own arrangements to make them work in a rhythm section that is based on a modern gypsy jazz trio. Some arrangements are very close to for example the versions Billie Holiday has recorded.
So out of love to the swing era from players and dancers point of view I present this live video “Comes Love” from a social dance night called “Tuesday Night Hop” where we played on September. We hope to get more gigs and to have a change to further develop this music!
New album STUDIO JJ SESSIONS with Adrien Tarraga and Tero Tuovinen is finally being released on July 5th. The album is released and sold on tour that covers several jazz festival and clubs such as Baltic Jazz, Linnajazz and Porijazz. Check the gig calendar for more details!
Last year I did a two day video shooting for an online music school Rockway for a basic/intermediate level gypsy jazz guitar course. On this course I discuss about different aspects of rhythm and solo guitar and show different exercises. The course is in Finnish. Here's a little taster! You can find the full course HERE!
For couple of years I've been hosting a gypsy jazz oriented music night in an Italian restaurant called Pjazza in the center of Helsinki. Every wednesdays I play there with an amazing double bass player Tero Tuovinen. Every week we also try to organize different players to play with us. Our goal is to show people what gypsy jazz is all about. Some of our guests in the past include such great musicians (in no particular order) as Henrik Perelló, Teemu Viinikainen, Mikko-Ville Luolajan-Mikkola, Jouni Järvelä, Charlotta Kerbs, Olli Soikkeli, Jarmo Hynninen, Susanna Eronen, Laura Airola, Joose Ojala, Lassi Kouvo, Noora Kiili, Mika Huusari, Aki Hauru, Kimmo Iltanen, Tuomas Lehto, Rémi Oswald, Jimbino Vegan, Lauri Yrjölä, Birger Lindström, Tero Hyväluoma, Mikko "Gunu" Karjalainen, Heidi Kiviharju, Adrien Tarraga, Viki Balzar, Tuomo Dahlblom, Petri Kautto, Timo Seppänen, Juha Lanu, Max Zenger and many more to come.
Years ago during the Django Reinhardt festival in Samois-Sur-Seine I met a guitar player called Adrien Tarraga. Going to the same festival for years we started to play more and more together and realised that we share the same kind of passion and vision about gypsy jazz music. In one point we both felt that we need to record something together and without planning it too much we booked a studio. So I'm thrilled to say that our new album is coming out soon in the first half of 2018!
|Apr 3||Helsinki||Pjazza||w Aki Hauru & Timo Tuppurainen|
|Apr 9||Tampere||Pyynikin Panimo||Wanha Swengi|
|Apr 10||Helsinki||Pjazza||w Tuomas Lehto & Joonas Tuuri|
|Apr 11||Siuro||Siuron koskibaari||w Tuomas Lehto|
|Apr 12||Helsinki||Metropolia||Tomi Kettunen Trio & Elina Virtanen|
|Apr 17||Helsinki||Pjazza||Kimmo Iltanen & Juuso Rinta|
|Apr 24||Helsinki||Pjazza||w Timo Seppänen & Joonas Tuuri|
|Apr 26||Helsinki||Storyville||w Timo Seppänen & Joonas Tuuri|
|Apr 26||Helsinki||Papa Albert||w Lassi Kouvo & Wade Mikkola|
|Apr 30||Helsinki||Red Gallery||Tomi Kettunen Trio & Elina Virtanen|
|May 1||Helsinki||Pjazza||w Antti Korhola & Javier Perez|
|May 5||Karjaa||Private event||w Aki Hauru|
|May 8||Södertälje/Sweden||Elderly house||Wanha Swengi|
|May 8||Södertälje/Sweden||Public Library||Wanha Swengi|
|May 12||Helsinki||Pjazza||Äitienpäivä brunssi: Tomi Kettunen Trio & Elina Virtanen|
|May 14||Helsinki||Red Gallery||w Antti Korhola & Wade Mikkola & Kimmo Iltanen|
|May 15||Helsinki||Pjazza||w Lassi Kouvo & Wade Mikkola|
|May 18||Helsinki||Balderin sali||Antti Sarpila & Tomi Kettunen Trio|
|May 19||Helsinki||Hakaniementori||w Kimmo Iltanen|
|May 21||Helsinki||Sähköttäjänpuisto||Wanha Swengi|
|May 24||Helsinki||Manala||Django Collective Helsinki|
|May 25||Klaukkala||Monikko-sali||Wanha Swengi|
|May 25||Porvoo||Private event||Duo Wanha Swengi|
|May 28||Helsinki||Lindy in the park||Wanha Swengi|
|May 29||Helsinki||Pjazza||w Tuomas Lehto & Antti Korhola|
Tomi Kettunen (b. 1982) started his musical journey at a very young age. Meanwhile his neighbor drummer was practising in the garage nearby, Tomi gathered his mom’s pans and pots to the terrace and tried to compete with him. Soon he found himself taking lessons from this very same drummer. At the age of six he started studying drums at the Conservatory of Joensuu and stayed there for few years. At the same time his father tought him the basics of guitar playing and gradually his main interest shifted from drums to guitar.
At first Tomi’s main musical influences were rock guitarists such as Marty Friedman, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore and Steve Vai. After hearing jazz influences in Vinnie Moore’s playing Tomi started to get interested in jazz music and finally after hearing John Coltrane’s playing in a jazz ballad called “In a sentimental mood” he wanted to learn more about jazz and started studying guitar playing in Music Institute of Pirkanmaa (PMO) where he learned the basics of jazz harmony and improvisation. After few years of studying, Tomi decided to quit in PMO and instead started going to jam sessions and jamming with other musicians. In 2008 he was appreciated with the Acre Kari Scholarship by his positive influence on the local jazz scene in Tampere.
After seeing Johnny Depp playing a Django Reinhardt tune “Minor Swing” with a guitar in a movie called “Chocolat” Tomi got interested in Django Reinhardt’s music and soon he found the music of other gypsy guitarists as well such as Bireli Lagrene, Tchavolo Schmitt, Angelo Debarre, Stochelo Rosenberg and Jimmy Rosenberg. The hard swing and fierce soul heard in their music made an everlasting impression on Tomi and his main focus has been on the Gypsy Jazz since 2007. He is currently one of the top Gypsy Jazz guitar players in Finland. He performs regularly in different jazz festivals and clubs with different groups such as Tomi Kettunen Trio, Wanha Swengi, Django Collective Helsinki and The Ginger Sisters and has recorded two albums with Wanha Swengi.
More music coming soon!
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