”You should come see how the guys are excited” – Says saxophonist Jukka Perko


On Friday, 26th February, SemiLive will be filled with jazz music, when saxophonist Jukka Perko will perform a gala concert in honor of the anniversary of Charlie Parker, whose style of music he was inspired at a young age. In the interview, Perko talks about his jazz journey and his expectations for Friday's concert.

– I chose the saxophone as my instrument by chance. As a young man, I listened to records where the saxophone was played, and it was such a coincidence. Through saxophone, I was also interested in jazz music and what struck me the most was the way jazz musicians played saxophone. Through that instrument, I caught up with the genre. Music has always been a part of everyday life in my family. It was always listened to on records or radio, so my earliest memories of music take me back to my childhood. At home, we always listened to or played something.

Jukka Perko is especially known in jazz circles for his Charlie Parker-style music and has been nicknamed "Little Bird" according to Parker's nickname. However, Perko also has other role models in addition to Parker.

– I think anyone who has listened to Charlie Parker’s music realizes there is something to it. Whether you liked jazz music or not. Parker’s music is very powerful, and it somehow evokes really talented improvisation. Parker’s music is caught in an instant and it appeals to the listener. Also, I think it’s very skillful technically, and extremely inventive musically. Although Parker represents its jazz style for a certain period of time, I still find it very timeless.

– My Little Bird nickname is not as honorable as one might imagine. On the one hand, it flatters but on the other hand, anyone who plays saxophone or jazz knows that they will always be far from Parker and I feel the same way myself. As a young man, the nickname, of course, encouraged and helped me understand that jazz music has a point. and I am good at what I do, and I should continue doing this. It felt good back then, even though I already knew back then that the nickname wasn’t all true. But of course, it is accepted as a positive incentive.

– In addition to Parker, I could name two role models. One of these is Paul Desmond, who has become known for his song “Take five.” He is a very personal player and a great influence. Secondly, I could mention Jan Garbarek, who has been an important role model for me. He is a Norwegian player in many relevant jazz recordings and Keith Jarret's configurations. He relies very much on his own sound and has such a Nordic dimension present.  

Next, the discussion shifted to jazz music and its future, which Perko sees as bright.

– Yes, I believe that there are enough friends and enthusiasts for jazz music, but also those who love to listen and play it. I don’t think jazz will ever become mainstream music, although every now and then there are popping up players who make jazz into the consciousness of a larger audience. I would say that the future of jazz is bright. It remains viable and redefines itself in a healthy way, always at regular intervals. It keeps jazz music alive.

– I'm the kind of person who loves the traditions and things that build around them. So, of course I hope that there will still be enough people in the future who are passionate about maintaining jazz traditions and giving their lives, time, and talent to keeping the traditions alive. It is important to me, as is the development of new ideas. I hope the jazz culture is broad and strong so that there are enough makers for both of these jazz genres.  

Perko also had time to reminisce about his jazz career and friends in jazz.

Now I want to tell a story that has nothing to do with playing or being at a gig - Perko starts.

– I just remembered over the weekend with my wife when I was in Dizzy Gillespie’s band at the age of 19. We were in Andorra for a gig during the tour and we had a moment of free time. I went shopping with Dizzy and he persuaded me to buy a watch for myself that was way too expensive. Then while we were drinking coffee, I told Dizzy that I should buy some gifts for my mom and dad from this tour. Dizzy replied, “I know what you need to buy. You need to buy an electric toothbrush. In that way every morning when your parents brush their teeth, they remember how nice a boy they have.” And so, we set out to buy an electric toothbrush.

– I have friends in jazz circles with whom I have played for a long time. They have grown into being my brothers, so I do not consider them as my colleagues. We have developed a deeper connection. I used to play a lot with Severi Pyysalo and we had a lot of fun playing together and we had amazing moments with him. Over the past few years, I have been playing more with Teppo Mäkynen. We’ve been playing together more or less since 1996 and it's always kind of brightening to play with him.

Eventually, the speech moved to a gig on Friday, 26th February.

– I would describe Friday’s gig as interesting. I think the good gig always starts with such a relaxed performance, but because of the corona, there have been no gigs, which creates more expectations for the upcoming gig. It will be interesting to see what happens when there is such joy and enthusiasm when you get to play after a long time. On top of all that, we get to play Parker’s production, which is always a kind of treat for itself. Friday’s gig is going to be meaningful and awesome, at least for us, and I think it’s showing up to viewers as well. You should come see how the guys are excited. It’s no longer self-evident that we’re on a live gig. It's everything else.

Tickets and other info here.

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