Work of art

The melody I found

Wayne is a melody that Jukkis Uotila discovered with his piano more than 20 years ago
Text:
Jukkis Uotila
Images:
Michael Aston

Contemporary jazz works are never born inside a vacuum.

Particularly my compositions owe a great deal to tradition. They are rebound balls to the challenges thrown by musicians before me, and offer commentary on or continuation to the tradition. The tradition of black music is an inexhaustible source of inspiration and its influences are clearly present in the conception of my works.

Wayne is a melody that I discovered with my piano more than 20 years ago. I immediately started hearing in my head the inimitable way the legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter plays the melody, tentatively as if feeling his way. Hence the name of the piece. The harmony just fell into place and the composition gained its final shape pretty quickly.

The main role in the recorded big band version is played by my old friend Dick Oatts, whose peculiar saxophone improvisations I remember waking up to in the morning, when staying at his house in New York in 1979.

Oatts is an incredibly expressive musician, so I let him make his own reading of the composition, regardless of its background story, just as he saw fit. After the intro, which contains material outside the composition, and the actual melody, the work is one of uninhibited crescendo.

Martin Sjöstedt‘s eloquent bass solo is followed by my piano solo backed by the woodwinds and the brass section, and then by Oatts’ three-chorus solo, up-modulated by a minor third.

Oatts has a completely unique way of finding incredible melodies even in tricky chord shifts – and that sound! Wow! The harmonies in this piece are seemingly simple, with catchy gospel and pop influences. To give it some jazz-based interest, it contains a challenging, fairly rapid modulation (change of key).

The final section culminates in “tutti”, which brings the arrangement back to Eb Major, a definite nod towards Thad Jones. I heard Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra for the first time in Helsinki at the age of 14 and that left an indelible impression on me. An experienced listener will appreciate Fredrik Noren‘s insightful lead trumpet in the final section of the piece. He is well ingrained in the tradition that the music springs from.

Dick Oatts floats sublimely in the higher register embraced by the final ensemble passage and an additional surprise is offered by an attention seeking solo piano. A brief reference to the intro to wrap up the piece, borrowing the triplet theme – and “over and out”.

In addition to magnificent solos, I found it highly satisfying to compose an atmosphere that echoed musical influences that are very important to me, but which still bore a distinct stamp of my own, personal take on the legacy of my role models.

Jukkis Uotila / The Stockholm Jazz Orchestra:

The Music of Jukkis Uotila

Tracks Avenida, Wayne, Isla de Angeles, Loopy Loop, Out in Left Field, No Regrets, Quiet Authority, Chorale
Written and arranged by Jukkis Uotila
Recorded on 3–4 March 2012 in Stockholm, at Studio 4 of the Swedish Radio
Sound engineer Miikka Huttunen
Musicians Fredrik Noren, Karl Olandersson, Gustavo Bergalli, Magnus Broo (trumpets),
Bertil Strandberg, Karin Hammar, Magnus Wiklund, Anders Wiborg (trombones),
Dick Oatts (alto and soprano saxophone, flute),
Magnus Blom (alto saxophone & flute),
Karl-Martin Almqvist (tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute),
Robert Nordmark (tenor saxophone, clarinet),
Fredrik Lindborg (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet)
Daniel Tilling (piano, tracks 3, 6, 8),
Martin Sjöstedt (bass),
Rafael Sida (percussion, tracks 3, 7),
Jukkis Uotila (drums, all tracks & piano, tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 7).

Jukkis Uotila is a drum player, pianist, composer and Professor of Jazz Music at the Sibelius Academy.

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