Finland’s most prestigious jazz awards were celebrated on the 5th of November at Tampere Jazz Happening. Jazz Finland granted the Yrjö prize to drummer-composer Mikko Hassinen, and acknowledged singer-pedagogue Maija Hapuoja with the Andania Award for lifetime achievement in Finnish jazz. Yle Jazz Radio presented their “Shadow-Yrjö” recognition to manager Pia Raitala.
Jazz Finland has decorated the “Jazz Musician of the Year” with the Yrjö Award since year 1967. This year’s laureate Mikko Hassinen has made a remarkable career as a drummer, conductor, composer, arranger and producer.
Hassinen, who recently turned 50, began his career in the mid-90's, while still studying jazz music, composition and theory at Helsinki’s famous Sibelius Academy. In recent years Hassinen has led his electronic Elektro GT ensemble. The band’s debut album brought home the annual Teosto prize in 2015, and their sophomore lp Ruma, which came out in early 2021, continued to surprise the audiences and critics with a cross-over between rap and fusion jazz. Hassinen has also been a frequent guest at the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra for a long time, and served as their Artistic Director in 2017–2019. In addition to jazz, Hassinen is a sought-after musician and producer in the fields of classical and art music.
The Yrjö-awarded percussion artist released his newest project Future Food Factory on stage at the Tampere Jazz Happening.
The discretionary Andania Award is granted by Jazz Finland to a person or a group for long-term, perseverent work for promotion and establishment of Finnish jazz music and culture. The first Andania was given in 1988. The recipient of this year was jazz singer and teacher Maija Hapuoja. Hapuoja studied and started her career in New York in late 70’s, and has toured the world and recorded hit albums ever since.
Yle Jazzradio, a long-running jazz programme of Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, also handed out their annual Varjo-Yrjö (”Shadow Yrjö”) award in Tampere. Varjo-Yrjö is given to a person, event, company or a phenomena in recognition to valuable contribution to the Finnish jazz culture, usually behind the scenes and not onstage. This year the prize went to agent, manager and coach Pia Raitala. During the past years Raitala has successfully represented a variety of Finnish jazz artists. Currently her roster features the likes of trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and saxophonist Linda Fredriksson. Raitala also coaches future musicians by providing mentoring services and lecturing at music schools. Varjo-Yrjö was granted now for the 19th time.
The award ceremony took place at Tampere’s Pakkahuone on Friday, the 5th of November as a part of the official programme of Tampere Jazz Happening and Jazz Finland’s member assembly National Jazz Days (Valtakunnalliset Jazzpäivät).