Photo: Atte Mäläskä
Petri "Pope" Puolitaival is an Oulu-born reedsman. He took up the saxophone during his high school years, pursuing his studies further at the local conservatory. It was at the Oulu Conservatory where he also started studying the flute. He removed to the Helsinki metropolitan area in 1994, enrolling first in the Pop & Jazz Conservatory and two years later in the Jazz Department of the Sibelius Academy. During his student years Puolitaival played in the EBU Big Band and European Youth Orchestra.
Today, Puolitaival counts among Finland's most sought-after jazz saxophonists. He leads his own group, Pope Puolitaival United, and plays in some of the most defining Finnish jazz outfits of the 2010s, including Dalindéo, Ricky-Tick Big Band, Nina Mya's band, Jo Stance's band, Jukka Eskola Orquestra Bossa, Espoo Big Band, Koko Jazz Orchestra and Sibis Alumni Big Band. In addition to jazz, he has backed such Finnish pop artists as Elastinen, Juha Tapio, Riku Niemi Orchestra, Dallapé, Sami Pitkämön Orkesteri, Sunrise Avenue, Leningrad Cowboys and Vantaan Viihdeorkesteri. Puolitaival has performed with many notable international jazz stars, including Jukkis Uotila, Peter Erskine, Wayne Krantz, Mark Levine, Adam Nussaum, Jimmy Smith and Patti Austin.
Puolitaival is known for his robust and expressive playing. He leans heavily on tradition, naming the likes of John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Charlie Parker as his biggest influencers. Previously a noticeably bop-influenced saxophonist, Puolitaival has more recently incorporated elements of free jazz into his style. In addition to his career as a professional musician, he has worked as a producer and a pedagogue since 2000, teaching at the Sibelius Academy, Espoo Music Institute and Vantaa Music Institute.