Jussi Pekka Pohjola (13 January 1952 – 27 November 2008) was a Finnish multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. Best known as a bass player, Pohjola was also a classically trained pianist and violinist.
Originally Pohjola rose to fame as the bass player of the Finnish progressive rock band Wigwam, but he soon departed on a solo career, initially releasing Frank Zappa-influenced progressive rock albums. As his career progressed Pohjola developed a more novel musical style that could best be described as fusion jazz. In addition to Wigwam and his solo albums, Pohjola also played with Made in Sweden, The Group (fi) and the bands of Jukka Tolonen and Mike Oldfield.
Pohjola belonged to one of the most prominent musical families in Finland. Conductor Sakari Oramo is Pohjola’s cousin.
Pohjola studied classical piano and violin at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. After a stint with The Boys (the seminal Finnish band led by brothers Eero and Jussi Raittinen), he joined Wigwam in 1970, contributing on two of their albums before leaving the group in 1972 to pursue a solo career (although Pohjola did again contribute on Wigwam’s Being in 1974). Pohjola’s first solo album Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva (Resin Eye Bark Ear), released 1972, bears notable resemblance to the works of Frank Zappa.
After leaving Wigwam, Pohjola also played with the Jukka Tolonen Band for a short time. In 1974 his second solo album, Harakka Bialoipokku (fi) (Bialoipokku the Magpie), was released in Finland. The album saw Pohjola’s sound developing to a more distinctive direction, with heavy usage of trumpets, saxophones and piano. The somewhat jazz-influenced album piqued the interest of Virgin Records executive Richard Branson enough to release it in the United Kingdom the following year under the name B the Magpie. (In October 2010 the album was re-released by Cherry Red Records.)
By the request of Virgin, Pohjola teamed up with Mike Oldfield to record and produce his third solo album, released in 1977 in Finland as Keesojen Lehto (Grove of the Keeso) and in the UK as Mathematician’s Air Display. The album was released, in Germany (1981, album and cassette) and Italy (1987) as simply Mike & Sally Oldfield / Pekka Pohjola. The album was also released in 1981 on the Happy Bird label, in the Netherlands, under the name The Consequences of Indecisions and credited to Oldfield instead of Pohjola. Oldfield was sufficiently impressed with Pohjola, however, to ask him join him on his 1978 tour. As a result, Pohjola can also be heard on Oldfield’s live album Exposed, released in 1979.
In 1978 Pohjola formed The Group, who released a self-titled album the same year. In 1979, Pohjola released Visitation, his fourth solo album. All of Pohjola’s solo albums from the 70s had exhibited fantasy influences, but these were undoubtedly strongest on Visitation.
In 1980 The Group changed its name to Pekka Pohjola Group and released the album Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme (The Dragon of Kätkävaara), with musicians Pekka Pohjola (bass), Ippe Kätkä (drums), Pekka Tyni (keyboards) and Seppo Tyni (guitars). The group disbanded soon after the release of their second album.
Pohjola’s next solo album, Urban Tango, was released in 1982. It was a radical departure from fantasy- and nature-inspired works of the 70s. It was also the first Pekka Pohjola album to feature comprehensible singing, the vocals provided by Kassu Halonen. Urban Tango was also the first of Pohjola’s albums to be released on his own Pohjola Records label. His next album was the soundtrack to Hannu Heikinheimo’s 1983 movie Jokamies (released in 1984 under the title Everyman in the United States and Germany). The album was notable for an abundant use of synthesizers. Space Waltz, released 1985, further explored the themes first heard on Urban Tango (1982). 1986’s Flight of the Angel was to be Pohjola’s last album of the 80s. The following year a compilation of his material was released under the name New Impressionist.
Pekka Pohjola’s record label in the United States during the 1980s was Breakthru’ Records, a pioneering audiophile record company started by Robert Silverstein in 1983. The advent of the compact disc in 1984 made it very difficult for independent American record labels to make CD pressings in the U.S. as the first plants, aside from the Sony plant in Indiana, were in Germany and Japan. As a result, Breakthru’ scrambled and forfeited away its rights to unscrupulous distributors in an effort to adapt to the fast changing audio landscape of the music business during 1984 and 1986. With the 1985 release of Space Waltz, Breakthru’ Records became the first label ever to release a compact disc by Pekka Pohjola. The first Pekka Pohjola album to be released on CD, Space Waltz was mastered in New York City by mastering engineer legend Greg Calbi. Pressed on CD in Switzerland, Space Waltz was also released by Breakthru’ Records on audiophile vinyl and cassette. Robert Silverstein’s 1980 interview with Pekka Pohjola can be found on the Music Web Express 3000 (www.mwe3.com) web site.
During the late 80s Pohjola composed Sinfonia No 1 (“Symphony No. 1”), which premiered live in 1989 and was released on CD in 1990, performed by the AVANTI! music group. Returning to the music scene in 1992, Pohjola released his ninth solo album Changing Waters. The album’s sound differed greatly from Pohjola’s guitar-driven works of the 80s, offering a softer, more piano-based soundscape. Changing Waters was given in an international release in spring 1993. The album featured Finnish top musicians Seppo Kantonen (keyboards), Markku Kanerva (guitar) and Anssi Nykänen (drums), who became Pohjola’s regular band. In May 1995, Pohjola released Live in Japan, a recording from three shows in Tokyo in November 1994. Later that year, Pohjola released a double-CD Heavy Jazz – Live in Helsinki and Tokyo. His next studio album, Pewit, followed in September 1997. In May 2001 Pekka Pohjola released Views, on which he toned down the rock-solid guitar-based sound of Urban Tango (1982) and Space Waltz (1985), instead focusing more on jazz and pop-classical arrangements, leaning heavily on strings and brass arrangements. The only song on Views to feature a guitar is “The Red Porsche”, after a poem written by Charles Bukowski.
Pohjola’s piece “The Madness Subsides” from B the Magpie (1974) was sampled by DJ Shadow as the main bass line in his song “Midnight in a Perfect World”, from the wildly successful debut album Endtroducing….. (1996).
On 27 November 2008, Pohjola died of alcoholism at the age of 56. (by wikipedia)
And this is his 5th album:
The opening Imppu’s Tango have some serious peak with pekka playing some obscure hard bass play. It took me some time to be used to the tango part in the beginning, but now I love it. It evolves to become the best car music, you picture yourself just speeding through landscape and feel the high momentum 🙂 (by Skink_123 )
Jussi Liski (keyboards)
Leevi Leppänen (drums)
Pekka Pohjola (bass, keyboards)
Kassu Halonen (vocals on 04.)
Esa Kaartamo (vocals on 05.)
Peter Lerche (guitar, mandolin (on 03.)
Timo Tapani Oksala (synth guitar on 01.)
01. Imppu’s Tango 9.23
2. New Impressionist 15.21
3. Heavy Jazz 10.47
4. Urban Caravan 11.47
05. Silent Decade 4-13
Music: Pekka Pohjola
Lyrics: Edu Kettunen