Saxophonist Sonja Virtanen’s road into the Finnish jazz scene is somewhat unconventional. After studying in Finland, she moved to the UK, where she graduated from the Leeds College of Music. Followed by for five years of playing on Caribbean cruises, she stayed in London for another five years, playing in big bands and working as a music pedagogue.
Her debut album draws from hard bop and soul jazz from the 50s and 60s. The sound is warm and, in a good sense, somewhat rough around the edges. Her music, however, is not as retro as the sound. With hints of afro, 60s modalism, and even 70s fusion, the album’s stylistic range is broad and fresh. All the tunes are originals by the band members.
Virtanen’s boisterous alto sax is definitely more in the vein of Cannonball Adderley than Paul Desmond. Excellent playing is also heard from guitarist Markus Tiiro. Timo Tuppurainen on bass and Kimmo Salminen on drums generate a righteous groove.
SONJA VIRTANEN QUARTET: Vim and Vigor
Sonja Virtanen, alto saxophone
Markus Tiiro, electric and acoustic guitar
Timo Tuppurainen, double bass
Kimmo Salminen, drums
Presence records PRECD 065