Whatmusic.com presents Eero Koivistoinen's killer cult funky jazz album from 1973
Re-issued on vinyl for the 1st time in 28 years!
Features Sabu Martinez & Olli Ahvenlahti
Original cover art
New liner notes by Eero Koivistoinen
"It shocked the critics of the day and in 2001 their funk infused jazz still sounds wild compared to the mannered offerings of most modern day beat headz."
- Straight No Chaser
"There's left-field jazz and then there are completely of-the-map wonders like Finnish saxophonist Eero Koivistoinen's funk bomb... Waaaaaaahoooooooo!"
- Tim Perlich, Now Toronto
"This album's a killer batch of funky jazz, filled with loads of choppy sax riffs, sweet Fender Rhodes licks, and plenty of heavy drums."
- Dusty Groove America
Eero Koivistoinen, who prior to this album had only recorded jazz acoustically, had been listening to some of the heavier fusion coming out of America and decided to create, and experiment in, sound using electric instruments. This was to include electric soprano sax, two basses and two drummers to establish what can be heard as a rock solid funky sound bed from which Koivistoinen sears through on his flame-thrower like sax.
Known only to collectors (the original Lp issue was only 600 copies!) Wahoo! has been recently changing hands for up to $500 each. In March 2000 Whatmusic.com made the trip out to Finland to accompany the re-mastering process and to interview Koivistoinen at his home.
"...This intoxicating slab of post-Bitches Brew electric jazz ...fronted by Eero Koivistoinen ...remained unknown outside of collectors' circles for years. No doubt he was the first to embrace the electric zeitgeist there (Finland) as he straps a wah wah pedal and Varitone unit to his amplified soprano sax to spearhead this 13 piece ensemble through a blistering series of electric Miles, early Weather Report and Zappa influenced pieces of surprising depth and power.
Driven by 2 drummers and 2 bassists Koivistoinen uses his 4 piece horn section, keyboardist, 2 guitarists and percussionists Sabu and Edward Vesala to create a huge churning ball of sound, rich in period flavours of fuzz bass, distorted Fender Rhodes and growling wah wah guitars, yet buoyant enough to shift into the atmospheric ECM - like soundscapes of "Bells" and the shimmering centrepiece, "Suite 19".
The pulsing funky vamp of the opener "Hot C" takes mere minutes to start blowing fuses revealing a McLaughlin - like sting in the tail from guitarist Matti Kurkinen, who tragically died shortly after these sessions, while the title track is a Zawinul type exercise in vertically stacked solos over a warped soulful melody. Self composed and robustly arranged throughout, Koivistoinen displays remarkable solo vigour, driving forward from long nagging lines to scatter-gun semi-free bursts as the tension mounts, always at the centre, always pushing out."
- Jon Newey - Jazzwise (UK) February 2001
Check the 30 second clips from the album...
The whatmusic.com interview...
WM - Okay so we've just come back from a discussion about releasing 'Wahoo', a very interesting album that came about after a period of a lot of acoustic jazz. Why did you decide to make that record at that time?
K - I think you know I was playing some years before that with a fusion band, some blues bands (Blues Section), so I got used to that kind of guitars and a bluesy thing. I think it was at that time thatsome funkier type of things came here. I think Miles Davis was already doing some funky stuff. So I got the idea to do something of my own too.
WM - So you started off playing in blues and R & B bands and the Jazz studies came along…
K - At around the same time. I studied, you know, when I was really young, the violin, normal classical stuff, but not very good... then I got an alto saxophone.
WM - From your brother?
K - Yes; we bought it secondhand. Then I started to do be-bop things, maybe even some swing things. In Kotka, that was the town that I was living in at that time.
WM - That's a coastal town, south-eastern?
K - Yes
WM - And your idols where Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond?
K - Yes those where my first influences. Charlie Parker came later, plus Eric Dolphy. Every kind of things. Then when I moved to Helsinki to study some film and TV things I started to play more modern, free kind of things. I had a trio with Edward Vesala and Pekka Sarmanto. We made some records too, and after that time I was in a blues band. I was trying everything, some dance gigs, restaurants... and played tango as well ! (laughs).
WM - Tango is quite big in Finland?
K - It used to be. I guess it is still in some places. After that I formed my quartet and the first real recording that's 'Odysseus'.
WM - That's a quintet and sextet?
K - Yes, it was a quintet and sextet. We had this Swedish trumpet player Bertil Lovgren on that LP. I did another one, for a book company by the way, and that was ' For Children', I think. Actually ' Valtakunta' was my first album. That LP had a lot of influences from popular music: Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa,
WM - And classical and neo-classical influences?
K - It was the same period when I was playing blues and R & B (Blues Section). We were listening to all the different kinds of experimental pop music.
WM - It was a very fertile time for different kinds of music.
K - It was a very interesting period of music. We saw Jimi Hendrix, he wasn't really very known in Helsinki. Nobody knew about him... the hall was half empty! (laughs).
WM - He was ahead of his time. So after 'For Children' you recorded a couple of albums for RCA?
K - Yes and one is 'Wahoo'. I got this deal because my friend Esko Linnavalli, who came to be the leader of the UMO big band, was working for RCA as a producer. He asked if I would like to do an LP … I said of course, thank you very much! And then I said maybe two different types of record. Maybe, he said, it would be wiser to make one really good one - but I thought I could make two!! (laughs). So I made those things in a very short period, 'Third Version' and 'Wahoo'.
WM - 'Third Version' was a quintet wasn't it?
K - It had two drummers as well. I don't know where the idea for two drummers came from. Reino Laine and Craig Herndon played on 'Third Version' and Esko Rosnell and Reino Laine drummed on 'Wahoo', which coincidentally had two bassists (Ilkka Willman and Heikki Virtanen).On 'Wahoo' Edward Vesala plays percussion not drums and Sabu (Martinez) is playing congas.
WM - Sabu was a larger than life character…
K - Yes, he was an interesting character. He was a nice player. He was living in Sweden, he came from Sweden to do this Charlie Mariano thing.
WM - Charlie Mariano was the catalyst for you to go to Berklee?
K - He came here to do a summer clinic in Yvaskyla in which I participated. Then via Esko Linnavalli came the possibility to make that (Mariano) album 'Reflections' and after that I went to Berklee for one and a half years.
WM - Did you learn a lot from your period in Berklee, do you think it helped you to develop?
K - I think so. Especially in writing and playing.
WM - You studied under Gary Burton didn't you?
K - Gary Burton was one of the teachers , plus Joe Viola and Herb Pomeroy.
WM - You came back from America and recorded some albums for Love Records?
K - Love Records was a very important label in Finland. Otto Donner, Christian Schwindt and Atte Blom put it together, mainly for their interest in music and that was maybe…
WM - Their downfall?
K - Because they were too interested in the music. But anyway they had a nice collection. They are putting out some of it.
WM - Yes some of it is being re-issued.
K - I think I made for Scandia one thing.
WM - '75 'Original Sin'?
K - Yes that is correct.
WM - Sextet, octet?
K - It was made just before I went to Berklee.
WM - Would that also have been the case with the 'Day Is Over' album?
K - 'Day Is Over'? Again, Esko Linnavalli, who seems to be an important guy in all of this, organised it. We made it in Stockholm because at that time studios in Helsinki were not that good. If it was possible to go to Stockholm it was wiser to go there. Some of the Love stuff was also made in Stockholm. After that I played quite a long time with the UMO Big Band.
WM - Around this time you toured quite a lot around European Jazz festivals?
K - Yeah quite a lot. Yugoslavia many times, Germany, Poland. We came twice to England too.
WM - In '75 you came with the New Music Orchestra?
K - Yes, that's the same as UMO.
WM - And you played the Queen Elizabeth Hall ?
K - Yes I think we did it again 3, 4 years ago but that was a different hall, I forgot the name.
WM - The South Bank?
K - No, it was this big centre.
WM - So what was the idea behind forming your own record label, Pro Records in '83?
K -At that time it was maybe hard to get deals, that was one of the reasons.But I was also interested to see how records are produced - doing everything from the recording, producing, making the covers... until it seemed to be too hard work for me. I managed to make 6 or 7 and then it got too tiring for me.
WM - Jazz in general is not a rich man's thing.
K - I produced records for other companies I guess more and more, I do it as part of the world (?)
WM - After the Pro Records phase you recorded for several European labels, Timeless…
K - I was happy to get deals out of Finland. I made two recordings in New York. It was of course easy to get deals because of the well-known players. The first was for Core (Germany) which was part of Line Music. I think it doesn't exist any more... and then for Timeless, one for Bellaphon and the latest is for A Records in Holland .
WM - Which was something of a departure for you as it was mainly a ballad album...
K - Yes, that was the last one that was released and I have two more in the can so let's see what happens to them!
WM - You've just come back from a trip to Africa. Can you tell me about that?
K -Well I was in Mozambique one and half years ago taking part in an organization called Artists for Peace, so I knew the place a little bit and some of the players there. I was planning to go to record a timbila (type of marimba) orchestra for Naxos World label.
I wanted to go out there, everything was ready and then came the catastrophic floods, and we had to cancel the thing and think of something else. The place was under water where we were going to record. So we went with the idea of a benefit album for Mozambique to Naxos. Naturally we needed to find an organization that could distribute the money back there and not let the government squander anything. So Oxfam organized the LP and it should come out next month (June 2000).
I hired a portable studio and took it from Johannesburg to Maputo, recording 5 different bands in three days. Then I went back to Johannesburg to mix and overdub, and yesterday I was overdubbing a little more here in Finland... I have to have everything ready for Tuesday.
WM - Which is hopefully when, well on Wednesday, there will be the re-mastering of the 'Wahoo' album?
K - It seems to be, yes. It's interesting to be doing do the latest production and one of the earlier things.
WM - Is it something you've wanted to do, incorporate African music?
K - I didn't know it so well before, but after meeting African guys, the first time through Hasse Walli, and then joining in on Hasse's recordings, it seems to have become more and more interesting.
WM - What have been the main musical influences on your career?
K - Quite many, you know, when I was starting I was interested in so many directions. I was studying classical music a little bit too, so maybe something came from that for compositions and ideas. Ellington, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins... a lot of names. But now, maybe some ethnic influences too. I've been living in different periods - now it seems to be African. I don't why, it just happens to be like that. Some of the recordings, especially those made in New York, they must be some of the highlights, just to be able to get such good players in the studio for a couple of days and to be with them.
WM - Why is that? Because you feel it is a validation of your years of experience, being able to cut it in an environment like that?
K - Maybe it's some kind of chemistry that is happening when you have some really good people that seem to be working nicely together. Of course, playing with a good band, whatever, the other guys make the chemistry happen - that is always very nice. I like that very much. And sometimes when you have been working real hard, composing something for many months, maybe a year, and then you hear the tape - if it's okay then wow! (laughs). What a relief!
WM - And finally, your immediate plans for the future?
K - Well, now I have some more recordings coming and the next thing I'm going to do, after I get this Naxos thing done, I've got to start to write a choir number - a classical type of music. Next autumn we are going to do this timbila recording in Mozambique and again a tour in South Africa and Namibia, too, so that is what is next I think... and gigs.
WM - Eero Koivistoinen - thank you very much indeed for your time and for giving this interview to Whatmusic.com.
K - It's a pleasure...