With an array of songs from legendary artists such as Irving Berlin, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, plus original songs by Uusitalo, “Stories From Here and There” sounds like a collection of some of the best jazz songs ever recorded.
Each song can be thought of as its own “story.” The themes are captivating and listeners can imagine a narrative of their own choosing to go along with the expressive soundtrack provided by Uusitalo and company.
About Tuomo Uusitalo
Being a pianist is just a fraction of Uusitalo’s roles. He is also a composer, arranger and educator. But as a pianist, Uusitalo has won awards and has garnered a great deal of useful experience as both a sideman and a bandleader.
Uusitalo began playing the piano at the age of 6. As a teenager, he learned to play classical, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, and all styles in between. That is the same period in which he discovered jazz.
Jazz intrigued Uusitalo because of the possibilities that came with the art of spontaneous improvisation. The pianist’s university studies brought with them the opportunity to work and study with a number of jazz legends, among them Jimmy Cobb, Curtis Fuller, Billy Hart and Bob Brookmeyer.
Uusitalo graduated with honors from University of Music and Performing Arts Graz in 2012. He moved to New York City shortly thereafter. In the years since graduation, Uusitalo has become a fixture in New York City’s vibrant jazz scene. He plays regularly at venues such as Smalls, Mezzrow, Fat Cat, Zinc Bar, Cornelia Street Café, Minton’s Playhouse, Cleopatra’s Needle, Garage, University of the Streets and more. Like his college years, Uusitalo’s New York City gigs have proven to be opportunities to work with an array of notable musicians, among them, Philip Harper, Johnny O’Neal, Tyler Mitchell and Curtis Lundy to name several.
Uusitalo’s recordings have earned him accolades since his student days. “Trio”– his debut, won the Downbeat Student Music Award in 2012 for Best Small Jazz Group. That same year, he also won for Best Latin Group with the Marco Antonio Da Costa Group. In 2013, Uusitalo won the Sir Roland Hanna Award from City University of New York. Also in 2013, Uusitalo performed original compositions at the Montreal Jazz Festival as part of the Jazz Composers Series.
Uusitalo’s second album, “Love Song” represented his second album as a leader. It was released in 2016. In 2018, Uusitalo was invited to join The Post Modern Jukebox for their 2018 European Tour. The group traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Israel.
“Stories From Here and There” by Tuomo Uusitalo
A compact recording of 11 well-executed songs, “Stories From Here and There” has a lively energy that engages listeners immediately. As for style, there is an old-school jazz feel that permeates all of the songs, including Uusitalo’s original pieces.
Uusitalo is joined by Chris Cheek on saxophone on six of the 11 tracks. The rest of the quartet is completed by Myles Sloniker on bass and Itay Morchi on drums.
The songs are a mix of long and short. From the six-plus minute “Solitude” (Ellington) to the 34-second “Poem No. 8–Crepuscule.” In general, there is a rhythmic clatter of drums that helps to orient audiences.
The recording opens with “Be Good or Be Gone,” an original song. A saxophone motif swings in an almost melancholy way. The expected notes don’t equal the blues, ultimately. Then, the entire quartet rushes in and the mood lifts. When the drums slow their rhythm, they make way for a saxophone showcase. The bass and drums complement each other, while the piano accents the soundscape.
A song that shouldn’t be missed is Irving Berlin’s “Best Thing For You (Would Be Me).” The song’s running energy is captivating. The bass keeps pace with the drums and piano. The feats of virtuosity come through in speed and execution. It is fascinating to hear.
There is a great deal about “Stories From Here and There” to recommend it. The recording is a good example of contemporary jazz that takes its cues from classic songs.
“Stories From Here and There” by Tuomo Uusitalo will be available July 1, 2019.