Jukka Perkosaxophonist/ composer
Photo: Tanja Ahola
Saxophonist Jukka Perko (b. 1968) was only a teenager when he played his way into the hearts of the audiences in Pori Jazz Festival 1986. The following year he received an invitation to join the ranks of Dizzy Gillespie's 70th Anniversary Big Band on tour. These days the jazz rhythmics and free flow of ideas that define Perko's art come together with the heartbeat of traditional Finnish music from the powerful harmony of hymns to the tangos of Olavi Virta.
In 1990's Perko was already a really commendable Finnish jazzmusician. The Finnish saxophone society awarded Perko in 1987 with the Pekka Pöyry award and in 1989 Perko received the Finnish Jazz Federation's Georgie, Yrjö, Award. The tours with the Dizzy Gillespie 70th Anniversary Big Band in 1987-88 had also launched Perko's international career. Perko-Pyysalo Poppoo was born in the beginning of 1990's and the group became one of the most active and appreciated Finnish jazzbands of 1990's. The album Garden of Time (Ondine Octopus 1993) was awarded with the Jazz-Emma Award and in 1994 Poppoo received the Finland Prize for Young Art, thanks to the band's active performing around Finland. In 1993 Perko was also awarded with the Young Artist of the Year acknowledgment of Finland Festivals and chosen as the Pori Jazz Artist of the Year.
In the 21st century Perko has been a good example of a musician who has built bridges between different music styles. In fall 2000 Perko presented to the public his new Hurmio Orchestra that performed jazz arrangements of singer Olavi Virta's tango classics. The album Music of Olavi Virta (Blue Note 2000) was both a sales success and appreciated by the critics. A couple of years later it was time for another crossover-production when Perko recorded the record Kaanaanmaa (Blue Note 2002) together with Virtuosi di Kuhmo that consisted of Finnish hymns. Besides these projects Perko has lately been busy with his two groups, Jukka Perko Viisikko and Perko-Pyysalo-Viinikainen Trio.
The hometown of Perko, Huittinen, organized in 2001 a Jukka Perko Saxophone competition Since 2002 Perko has also, as an artistic leader, hosted Viapori Jazz, the jazzfestival organized in Suomenlinna, Helsinki. During his artistic career, Perko has also worked as a teacher and has been an extremely appreciated one. At the same time he has had the opportunity to see the rise of the younger jazz generation.
For Jukka Perko, music is existence. He learned to play as he learned to speak, by listening and mimicking. Perko approaches music from silence and describes his attitude towards playing and composing as balancing between perfectionism and coming to terms with incompleteness. That is perhaps the reason why his notes ring with what some might call grace.