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whatmusic.com presents Esa Pethman’s ‘The Modern Sound of Finland’, the first modern jazz LP from that country. This landmark mid-60s recording features tenor saxophonist and flautist Pethman in 4tet and larger group settings with some notable young ‘suomi jazzers’ !
  • 1st modern jazz from Finland
  • Features Heikki Sarmanto & Pekka Pöyry
  • 24-bit SBM digital remastering

Check the 30 second clips from the album...

The whatmusic.com interview...

esa listening!

When I first heard this record, I was very much taken by surprise. As a music critic, I had known Esa Pethman for years as a hardblowing tenor saxophonist, whose Quartet was in the early 60s perhaps the best jazz ensemble in Finland. You can imagine my surprise when I heard the first strains of Al Secco and memories of the Finnish romantic composers of the 1910s came to my mind. I had only known the soloist. Now I was suddenly presented to Esa Pethman, the composer.

I could well lay the blame on myself, because what I heard was quite a logical development of Esa Pethman’s career. His music has always sprung from an inner necessity which continuously drives him to develop himself. Born in 1938, he was attracted to music at the age of 17 by the records of Charlie Parker, purchased a tenor saxophone and practised with his brother Anssi, a drummer also heard on this record. He became a flute student at the Sibelius Conservatory in 1959 and soon found himself the leader of a jazz quartet which toured Poland and Czechoslovakia, made a few records and acquired an almost legendary reputation among jazz fans.

The same urge that had driven him to take up the saxophone soon got him making little melodies. It did not take long until they developed into full compositions. “I never studied composition. I fear that theoretical learning would just limit my composing into stereotypes. To me, pure melody is the essential element in all music and the starting-point of all my work. First, my friends Heikki Sarmanto helped me to harmonize and orchestrate my melodies, and gradually experience has taught me the necessary techniques.”

A natural musician cannot limit himself to one style. “As a composer, I find jazz too limited”, says Esa Pethman. “I admire Sibelius and the Finnish romantic composers. But still, there’s no better music than good improvised jazz, like the solos of Charlie Parker or Sonny Rollins. Duke Ellington is to me the greatest jazz composer. And jazz has given me any rhythmic freedom I may have as a composer.”

If you listen to Blues for Duke and then to Al Secco you may be able to recapture some of my initial surprise. The Blues is a little jazz theme, “one that Duke himself might have used”, says Esa. The solos by Pekka Pöyry on alto sax, Heikki Rosendahl on trumpet, Heikki Sarmanto on piano and the composer on tenor represent the finest achievements of Finnish Jazz and are quite in the spirit of the Quartet. Al Secco is a rhapsodic composition based on a melancholy and very Finnish theme which gives us a glimpse of the romantic that Esa Pethman really is deep down in his soul. Between these extremes we have a beautiful arrangement of a Finnish Lullaby for tenor and guitar, the compelling jazz-styled Etude No.1, the strangely catchy 5/4-rhythms of The Flame and two pieces dedicated to the composer’s children which quite characterize them – Mr. Peter being a spirited, whimsical theme just like the little boy who inspired it, Nina’s dream a tender, girlish melody.

This album introduces us to a personal, versatile composer and musician, who independent of current musical fashions has created a style very much his own. It is truly THE MODERN SOUND OF FINLAND.

Pekka Gronow


Recorded in Helsinki between 7th September 1964 and 5th February 1965 by:

Esa Pethman (ts, fl)
Heikki Sarmanto (p) 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11
Tapani Tamminen (b) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11
Anssi Pethman (dr) 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9

Heikki Rosendahl (tp) 1, 5
Ossi Runne (tp) 3, 10
Erkki Lipponen (tb, b-tb) 3, 5, 10
Seppo Peltola (tb) 1, 3, 5, 10
Jussi Aalto (tb) 3, 10
Antero Kasper (frh) 3, 10
Gösta Möller (tu) 3, 10
Juhani Aaltonen (fl) 1, 5
Pertti Rasilainen (fl) 3, 10
Unto Haapa-Aho (cl) 1, 5
Pentti Lasanen (cl) 3, 10
Pekka Pöyry (as) 1
Hannu Saxelin (as) 3, 10
Rauno Lehtinen (bars) 3, 5, 10

Heikki Laurila (g) 4, 8, 11
Matti Konttinen (p) 1, 5
Pentti Mutikainen (b) 8
Matti Koskiala (dr) 4, 11
Erkki Valaste (dr) 3, 8, 10
Seppo Asikainen (perc) 7, 9
Rainer Kuisma (perc) 10

Ulf Hästbacka (vln) 6, 7, 9, 11
Okko Kamu (vln) 6, 7, 9
Erkki Kantola (vln) 11
Sven Enqvist (vla) 7, 9, 11
Mauri Pietikäinen (vla) 6
Jarmo Vainio (cello) 6, 7, 9, 10, 11

Erkki Melakoski (ldr, arr) 6, 7, 9, 11
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