Around the World: Finland’s Edward Vesala

9 May

One of Finnish percussionist’s Edward Vesala’s many albums was entitled Ode to the Death of Jazz.

He, of course, did nothing to expedite that. Quite the opposite. Born Martti Vesala in Mantyharju, Finland in 1945, he changed his name to Edward and became one of Europe’s leading drummers. He played with many of ECM’s most succesful artists — Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko among them — and formed his own group Sound and Fury.

His music may have seemed that at times. He was unconventional not just in appearance and personality (Brian Olewnick called him “a cantankerous sort,” on allmusic.com), but his approach to music. He married one of his musicians, Iro Haarla, who became a partner of the work, too. “He knew he could use strange ideas to create music,” Haarla said in an interview with point of departure.org. “He once made a piece he wanted arranged for string quartet. He played with golf balls on the strings of a grand piano and recorded it. The transcription was very difficult. They were funny and crazy ideas.”

From ecmrecords.com: “The Penguin Guide to Jazz calls Edward Vesala ‘a major musical presence (who) deserves the widest possible recognition.’ ”

Vesala from the documentary “Eetun kanassa:” “As soon as I started to whistle and sing, I already had it in my mind to play the drums.”

As he progressed in his career, composing and writing music became as important as playing it.

He was 54 when he died in 1999 of heart failure. A link to a 1976 live performance with Stanko below:

sources: jazzhouse.org, ecmrecords.com, point of departue.org, speakeasy.jazzcorner.com, allmusic.com

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