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Tapani Rinne

saxophonist/ clarinetist/ composer/ producer

Kuva/ Photo: Leena Kouhia

Tapani Rinne (b. 1962) is a Finnish musician, composer and record producer, who is known for his experimental and innovative style with the clarinet and saxophone. An avid student of clarinets and saxophones since the age of eight, this man of integrity rightfully belongs in the “Hall of Fame” of the most respected Nordic instrumentalists. As a solo artist, the reedsman/composer has made his mark through close collaborations with fellow Finnish iconoclasts Edward Vesala, Raoul Björkenheim, Kimmo Pohjonen, Wimme Saari, and Iro Haarla.

As many youngsters at the time, Rinne began his musical studies in the sax section of the Pori Big Band in 1974, and after spending the period between 1981 and 1985 studying the clarinet at the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, he decided to broaden his horizons by participating in composer/drummer Edward Vesala’s controversial Sound & Fury workshops. This collaboration, which was to bloom until the guru’s untimely demise in December 1999, commenced with Rinne’s appearance on the legendary 1989 Vesala album ’Lumi’. During the 1980’s Rinne would also continue to hone his trad jazz chops among the ranks of the UMO Jazz Orchestra and the EBU Big Band, but stayed close to the Sound & Fury circle for the last five years of the decade. 

Testament to the radical experimenter’s individual style can be found on guitarist/composer Raoul Björkenheim’s debut album ’Ritual’, released in 1988 under the group name Krakatau. Also in 1988, Rinne released the debut album of his group RinneRadio. This recording was produced by Edward Vesala and consisted mainly of his compositions. The “moral” debut of RinneRadio came two years later in the form of ’Dance and Visions’. For this disc Rinne assembled an eclectic team of front-row musicians and composed all but one of the nine tunes himself. Such was the local enthusiasm that RinneRadio was dispatched to represent Finland at the annual EBU concert. Thus began a long and winding road of numerous tours and concerts abroad. 

After ’Dance and Visions’, RinneRadio has released ten full-length albums. The discography is completed by the seven CD singles and the two remix efforts from which ‘Kuvala’-single became an overnight sensation on the international club scene. In 2008 RinneRadio released a compilation entitled ’20′ celebrating their 20th anniversary. During the years of primary international recognition Rinne’s most important collaborators were bassist/synthesist Jari Kokkonen, sampler/sequencer wizard Kimmo Kajasto and studio mastermind Pauli Saastamoinen. The latter remains Tapani’s right-hand-man to this day, but along the way the fluctuating line-up has mostly been embellished by turntable specialists and percussionists.

A new dawn broke for RinneRadio with the release of ‘Pan’ in 2004. With this mostly “live-in-the-studio” album Rinne introduced two new musicians eager to take on the world with their novel vision — this time in the ranks of RinneRadio. Samplerist/synthesist Verneri Lumi (aka Tuomas Norvio) and percussionist Juusonik (aka Juuso Hannukainen) had both cut their teeth with leading Finnish pop and rap teams before bringing their unique flavour to the table. The album also featured the violin virtuoso Pekka Kuusisto in a major role. 

Even though maintaining a tight focus on RinneRadio, Tapani has also thrived as solo artist and producer. He has written music for theatre, radio readings, cinema, dance and modern circus and created the sonic setting for several art exhibitions. 

A one of a kind adventure was ignited as percussionist Teho Majamäki told Tapani about his trips to India and the marvelous acoustic spaces he had encountered there. The fellow musicians packed their instruments and set off for India to record in the temples of Maharashtra. The resulting album is something that couldn’t have come to exist anywhere else. The subtle sounds of Rinne’s clarinets and Majamäki’s udu and santoor blend into the atmosphere of the caves, accompanied by the distant howls of wild animals. 

Another fine, still ongoing, team effort was kickstarted already in 2001 as Rinne joined forces with Vellu Maurola (aka DJ Slow of Pepe Deluxè fame). The duo was named SlowHill, and the debut album ‘FinnDisc’ was released to massive critical acclaim in 2002 by Blue Note Finland. The follow-up, ‘Fennika’ came out in 2005 and Summer 2010 saw the release of the third SlowHill album, called Muzak. A totally new avenue for Rinne, SlowHill is best described as downtempo or lounge music. 

All of the aforementioned aside, Tapani has worked tightly as a band member and producer with Sámi joik singer Wimme Saari on his four albums. In Arpil 2011 the Wimme album ’Mun’ gained Tapani the grand Teosto Prize, granted by the Finnish copyright collecting society Teosto.

The Teosto Prize is perhaps Tapani’s most prestigious award to date, but it wasn’t his first. He is the 1992 recipient of the Georgie Award (aka “The Jazz Musician of the Year” as awarded by the Finnish Jazz Federation). In 1994 critical merit headed RinneRadio’s way too, as ’Unik’ brought home the Jazz-Emma — aka the Finnish equivalent of the Jazz Grammy. Tapani Rinne performs regularly on the Old and New Continent, Japan and Africa with RinneRadio and Wimme. Eagerly embracing novel inventions, Rinne’s sexy saxophone and solemn bass clarinet regularly recalibrate all meters of self-expression.