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Markku Ounaskari (b. 1967) first studied drums at the Oulunkylä Pop and Jazz Conservatory and, beginning in 1987, at the Jazz Department of the Sibelius Academy. During this period, his professional career also began when he toured and recorded with two legendary Finnish groups, Piirpauke (Algazara in 1987 and Zerenade in 1989) and the Pekka Pohjola Group (Changing Waters in 1998). Beginning in the 1990s, Ounaskari made a number of recordings and toured in Europe, Asia and the Americas with pianist Jarmo Savolainen (John’s Song in 1996, Another Story in 1997, Times Like These in 2002, Grand Style 2004 and Songs For Trio in 2006). Ounaskari has played with all the major Finnish jazz figures (journalist Petri Silas once wrote that it would be easier to list the Finnish ensembles with which Ounaskari has not played). Early in his career he also toured and recorded with both Piirpauke and the Pekka Pohjola Group, Finnish pioneers of cross-genre music.

Beginning in 1999, Ounaskari has increasingly worked with international projects and bands becoming one of the internationally best known Finnish jazz musicians. These have included the Eric Vloeimans Band, Andre Fernandes Trio, Sinikka Langeland Ensemble, Fredrik Nordström & Niklas Winter Band, Filip Augustson Quintet, Willemark-Heinilä-Ounaskari-Jormin Band, Walter Beltrami Band, Fugara, Tomasz Stanko Quartet, Trygve Seim Quartet, Rotterdam Metropole Orchestra and many others. He regularly collaborates with artists such as Fausto Beccalossi, Raoul Björkenheim, Arve Henriksen, Anders Jormin, Nils Petter Molvaer, Trygve Seim, Markus Stockhausen, Tore Brunborg, Mats Eilertsen and Lena Willemark. He has also performed with many other internationally renowned musicians, including Ray Anderson, Furio di Castri, Lars Danielsson, Marc Ducret, Hein Van De Geyn, Tim Hagans, Ed Jones, Lee Konitz, Gnuyên Lê, Rick Margitza, Ron McClure, Judy Niemack, Lars Anders Tomter, Kenny Wheeler and Vertavo String Quartet.

In 2009, Ounaskari formed Kuara with Norwegian trumpeter Per Jørgessen and Finnish pianist Samuli Mikkonen. The group’s first recording for ECM Records, Kuara – Psalms and Folk Songs, received the Emma Award for the Best Finnish Jazz Recording of the Year 2010. 2014 he received ”Yrjö Price”, the most prestigious Jazz prize in Finland. He has made more than 60 recordings in Finland and abroad including 6 recordings for ECM Records.

Biography by Petri Haussila