Finnish Jazz Federation’s Yrjö Award to saxophonist Linda Fredriksson – The new Taimi Award aimed at young musicians to pianist and wind instrumentalist Joonatan Henriksson

Valtteri Pokela

The most prestigious recognitions in the Finnish jazz scene were awarded at the Tampere Jazz Happening on Friday, November 3rd. The Yrjö Award from the Finnish Jazz Federation was presented to saxophonist Linda Fredriksson, while the new Taimi Award for young musicians was given to pianist and wind instrumentalist Joonatan Henriksson. Concert organiser Marita Nyrhinen received the “Shadow Yrjö” recognition for her contributions to jazz culture, presented by Yle Jazz Radio.

The Yrjö Award of the Finnish Jazz Federation has been presented since 1967 to a distinguished Finnish jazz musician. In previous years, the award has been granted to trumpeter Jukka Eskola (2022), drummer Mikko Hassinen (2021), saxophonist Timo Lassy (2020) and pianist Riitta Paakki (2019). This year, the award went to saxophonist Linda Fredriksson.
– Linda Fredriksson has emerged as one of the most intriguing Finnish jazz artists of our time. Their distinctive voice andstrong expression have found appreciative audiences both domestically and internationally, says Minnakaisa Kuivalainen, a member ofthe award committee composed of the Jazz Federation’s board, explaining the grounds for the recognition.
– Fredriksson’s  explosively popular solo album was preceded by an impressive career as an instrumentalist, with talents recognized on an international scale. Fredriksson’s music touches audiences sensitively and convincingly, transcending genre boundaries, Kuivalainen describes.

Saxophonist Linda Fredriksson is known as a bold improviser and a distinctive musician who transcends boundaries. Fredriksson solidified their position among the brightest names in Finnish jazz, especially with their debut solo album Juniper (We Jazz Records 2021), which received exceptionally praising reviews from both critics and the audience. The album was awarded the Jazz Emma Award and the Teosto Prize in 2022.

Linda Fredriksson soittaa baritonisaksofonia.

Linda Fredriksson Juniper performed at Pakkahuone, right after the award ceremony. Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

Before their solo career, Fredriksson became known in bands like Mopo, Superposition and Ricky-Tick Big Band, in addition to collaborations with artists such as Ultra Bra, Raoul Björkenheim, Timo Lassy and Olavi Uusivirta.

Fredriksson began their musical studies at the age of 9 with the alto saxophone. Since then, their instrument repertoire has expanded toalso include the baritone saxophone, flute and bass clarinet. Fredriksson, who has graduated as a Master of Music from the Sibelius Academy, is especially known for their versatile baritone saxophonism, which ranges from ethereal melodies to explosive improvisation.

Artist Jussi Goman´s Pinetree as a Yrjö Award Work

The Yrjö Award is an annually commissioned piece of art by a changing artist. This year, the artwork is Pinetree (acrylic on canvas, 2023) by visual artist Jussi Goman, originally from Pudasjärvi. The title of the artwork refers to Linda Fredriksson’s Juniper album, which inspired Goman in the process of creating the Yrjö piece:
– Pinetree Song gave the painting its name and colorful theme. The painting’s background is grid-patterned, symbolizing a secure and firm foundation for free art to manifest. Abstracted forms are arranged in the painting to depict the diverse and playful, yet skillful expression of jazz rhythms, Goman explains about his artwork.

Vuoden 2023 Yrjö-palkintoteos, Jussi Gomanin Pinetree (akryyli kankaalle, 2023). Mm. vihreitä ja ruskeita abstrakteja muotoja ruudutetun pohjan päällä.

Jussi Goman´s Pinetree (acrylic on canvas, 2023)

Jussi Goman graduated with Master of Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts at the University of the Arts Helsinki in 2008. His works are included in collections such as the Finnish State Art Commission, the Helsinki Art Museum and Kiasma. In 2020, Goman was awarded the William Thuring Main Prize by the Finnish Art Society.

Finnish Jazz Federation’s new Taimi Award to pianist and wind instrumentalist Joonatan Henriksson

Finnish Jazz Federation’s new annual Taimi Award is presented to a young musician who passionately develops their own musical expression.The award aims to encourage young talents in their bold quest for their unique voice. The very first Taimi Award was granted to pianist and wind instrumentalist Joonatan Henriksson.
– Pianist and wind instrumentalist Joonatan Henriksson has been making waves in the Finnish jazz scene with his skilled and expressive playingsince the age of 11. He has performed in concerts and festivals not only with his own band but also alongside musicians like Jukka Perko and Kalevi Louhivuori, explains Jari Perkiömäki, a member of the award jury from the Finnish Jazz Federation’s board.
– In addition to piano, Henriksson has dedicated himself to the clarinet as a solo instrument, mastering both traditional and modern expressions at a high professional level. It is expected that Henriksson, who will graduate from high school next spring, will become a significant figure in the evolving Finnish jazz scene in the coming years, Perkiömäki continues.

Neljä henkilö seisovat Pakkahuoneen lavalla: toinen vasemmalta Taimi-palkinnon saaja Joonatan Henriksson.

Joonatan Henriksson (2nd from the left) received the Taimi Award. Photo: Maarit Kytöharju

The Taimi Award includes the opportunity to perform at three Finnish jazz festivals, which change annually. This year’s award festivals are Pori Jazz, Porvoo Jazz and the InkJazz in Kouvola. Additionally, the Finnish Jazz Federation offers the first recipient of the Taimi Award a concert slot at the 25th anniversary ofthe Jazz-Espa Festival. Henriksson, who is updating his gig calendar, is thrilled to receive this recognition:
– I am extremely grateful to be honored with the first Taimi Award. My biggest dream is to leave my mark on the history of Finnish jazz, and I believe this award is a significant step towards achieving that goal, Henriksson shares.

Yle’s “Shadow Yrjö” Award to concert organiser Marita Nyrhinen

Yle Jazz Radio’s “Shadow Yrjö” recognition went to Marita Nyrhinen, who is a founding member and active participant in the Ylistaron Kaukolankylän jazzkerho association, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. Nowadays under the Jazzsoikoon! brand the association organises jazz concerts in the Seinäjoki area and feature also renowned international artists. In addition to concert activities, Nyrhinen has revitalized Finnish jazz culture as a jazz journalist and reviewer, initially in the South Ostrobothnian newspaper Ilkka and Satakunnan Kansa, and now on the website.

The awards were presented at Tampere’s Pakkahuone on November 3, 2023. The event and Linda Fredriksson’s concert were part of the official programme of Tampere Jazz Happening and Finnish Jazz Federation’s member assembly National Jazz Convention (Valtakunnalliset Jazzpäivät).

Cover photo: Maarit Kytöharju