Tuomo Uusitalo (p), Chris Cheek (ts), Myles Sloniker (b), Itay Morchi (d)
Bar code: 8427328435758
"The title for Uusitalo’s third album could hardly be more fitting. As bassist Myles Sloniker outlines in the liner notes, everything here came about quite organically, with Uusitalo drawing inspiration from a range of sources. The music isn’t trying to fit a general theme, method or structure, it just speaks directly about things that influenced the composer at the time.
The approach has certainly paid off with this endearingly listenable selection of songs. Born in Tampere, Finland, but now a resident of New York and active as a performer, composer and musical educator, Uusitalo has a graceful, melodic approach to both playing and composing. Six of the tracks on the CD are penned by him, with additional inspiration coming from the likes of Irving Berlin, Monk, Ellington and Bud Powell.
The fragmented, eclectic nature of Uusitalo’s inspirations is revealed in the brevity of some tracks. Poem No.4 and Between Things come in at under two minutes each – exploratory, delicate little pieces that bridge other tracks quite fittingly. A lovely, sensitive reading of Ellington’s Solitude is the longest track on the album at just over six minutes, so you get the sense that this is not an album where extending ideas and playing for the sake of it has been central to the intention behind the music.
Indeed, it is the slightly laidback, pared-down nature of things that gives Stories From Here And There its appeal. Chris Cheek puts in a wonderful performance on saxophone. With no time for rehearsals with the rest of the band before the recording, and not even having met any of the other musicians before, he plays some warm, Ben Webster-like lines on a number of tracks. Most notably, the charm of Tonight You Belong To Me transports the listener back to the elegant days of swing – appropriate, as the inclusion of the track was inspired by a performance of the song from the Lennon Sisters on the Lawrence Welk show in the mid-1950s. Thoughtful, graceful music that, at just over 36 minutes, says what it wants to beautifully and then takes its leave. What more could you ask?"
John Adcock (August 19, 2019)
"From Finland to Austria to NYC, from Billy Hart, Bob Brookmeyer and the Tommy Dorsey Band, pianist Tuomo Uusitalo’s adventures in jazz bring the collective us his third platter as leader. It’s very much within the bebop mainstream, but far from rote. This set of stories finds Uusitalo claiming a bit of the tradition for himself in grand style.
Uusitalo evokes the rapid-fire élan of Bud Powell, unassuming earthiness of Red Garland and economy of Thelonious Monk. The opener is an original, “Be Good or Be Gone”, a genial hard-swinger, Uusitalo alternating between deft, speedy passages and more measured, slightly punchy notes, the whole trio slowing the tempo at times to impart a charmingly off- balance vibe.
A duet with saxophonist Chris Cheek (he plays on roughly half the tracks), Irving Berlin’s “Best Thing for You” is rendered à la Monk, the melody fragmented and Cheek evoking Monk’s right-hand man Charlie Rouse. The ambiance is wistful but avoids overdone sentimentality. Similar is Duke Ellington evergreen “Solitude”, Uusitalo skirting the classic melody without abandoning the core of the song.
The high point is a dandy take on Powell’s “Bouncing With Bud”, Uusitalo synthesizing the approaches of Powell and Monk without being imitative. His trio, bassist Myles Sloniker and drummer Itay Morchi, are right there with him, hugging the background yet laying down sturdy swing. Cheek shines brightest on Lee David-Billy Rose’s “Tonight You Belong To Me”, bringing old-school breathiness to his burnished tone in yet another classy duet with the leader.
The set is less than 40 minutes, but this trio/ quartet makes every note count. While Uusitalo and company don’t break any new ground here, they certainly spruce up the old estate."
Mark Keresman (July, 2019)
The New York City Jazz Record
"If music is the universal language of mankind, then jazz is especially cogent since so many musicians from so many other countries are mesmerized by it–enough to devote their lives to this American art form. I’m particularly attracted to jazz from places such as Japan, Cuba, Brazil and even Ethiopia (Ethiopiques, anyone?), but I don’t know if I’ve really focused on Finland’s contributions to jazz until now. There are pockets of stunning jazz innovation all through Europe, everything from Jazz at the Pawnshop to the sublime tribute to Rashied Ali from Dutch bassist Joris Teepe I reviewed a few months ago. But Finland? Set me straight, Tuomo Uusitalo!
Pianist Tuomo Uusitalo has just released a fascinating new album, Stories from Here and There, billed as a “collection of stories from his travels.” This album isn’t flowing with brand new ideas as far as jazz is concerned, but there’s a deep and unmistakable dedication and love inside Uusitalo’s heart. This globetrotting pianist has gravitated to New York City as so many other foreign-born jazz musicians have, but his musical prowess was honed in Austria where he studied University of Music and Performing Arts, the “oldest jazz institute in Europe.” Since then he has played with many greats, everyone from Jimmy Cobb to Billy Hart to Juan Garcia-Herreros. He eventually landed a gig with The One and Only Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and started composing and performing with his own trio. He’s even toured with Postmodern Jukebox. His debut album, Trio, arrived in 2012 and went on to win many awards.
Stories from Here and There is Tuomo Uusitalo’s ode to wanderlust. He does live and play in NYC, but he also lives with his family in Riga, Latvia. His piano style is lively and upbeat most of the times, but there’s a lyricism at work here, a sense that Uusitalo is always thinking of the places where he is not and missing them. I listen to a lot of music from Scandinavia, and I always hear an undercurrent of sadness, an acknowledgement that today’s happiness is only a result of past sacrifices. I hear that in these 11 tracks. Tuomo Uusitalo has enlisted the help of like-minded musicians–legendary tenor sax player Chris Cheek, bassist Myles Sloniker and drummer Itay Morchi, people who have also played all over the place and know what it’s like to absorb all those new experiences and still miss home. This is an excellent, unified quartet.
While Stories From Here and There mostly contains original compositions from Tuomo Uusitalo, the covers from the Great American Songbook are also friendly to these themes. This quartet masters songs such as Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing For You (Would Be Me)” and Thelonious Monk’s “Boo Boo’s Birthday,” giving them the air of timelessness. It’s the final track, “Tonight You Belong To Me,” that really delivers the message of coming home and being with the ones you love the most. This is a poignant album, beautifully played, and a strong argument for admiring jazz that comes from faraway places."
Marc Phillips (June 2, 2019)
"Tuomo Uusitalo is a NYC-based award-winning pianist, composer, arranger and educator. Having released two albums as a leader, and appearing on numerous albums as a sideman, he has established himself in the New York jazz scene, and continues touring worldwide both as a leader as well as sideman. Born in Tampere, Finland, Tuomo Uusitalo started to play piano at the age of 6. As a teenager he played different types of music from classical to pop/rock, and soon became fascinated by jazz and the thrilling possibilities of spontaneous improvisation. While studying music in Graz, Austria (University of Music and Performing Arts, the oldest jazz institute in Europe), Tuomo already had the chance to work and perform with many jazz legends including Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Hart, Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Cobb and Jim Rotondi, as well as many other well known jazz artists such as Steve Waterman, Riccardo del Fra, Wayne Darling, Juan Garcia-Herreros, Howard Curtis, Stjepko Gut, Charlie Miklin and many others.
After graduating with honors from University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (Austria) in 2012, Tuomo moved to New York City, and has been living in the city since. He is performing regularly around the city at numerous venues including NYC's main jazz spots (Smalls, Mezzrow, Fat Cat, Zinc Bar, Cornelia Street Cafe, Minton’s Playhouse, ShapeshifterLab, Cleopatra's Needle, Garage, University of the Streets, Arturo's etc.). During his time in NYC he has worked with several legendary jazz musicians including Curtis Lundy, Tyler Mitchell, David Schnitter, Jeff Hirschfield, Johnny O'Neal, Greg Bandy and Philip Harper as well as many notable musicians in the scene such as Chris Cheek, Seamus Blake, Ulysses Owens Jr., Dayna Stephens, Obed Calvaire, Rich Perry, Justin Brown, Elliot Mason, Peter Slavov, Josh Evans, Brandon Lewis, Gerry Gibbs, Scott Tixier, Jason Brown, Luques Curtis, Tivon Pennicott, Troy Roberts, Russell Hall, Evan Sherman, Alexander Claffy and Kyle Poole, to name a few.
TRIO, was his sparkling 2012 debut CD. The album won the Downbeat Student Music Award in 2012 for the Best Small Jazz Group. At the same year he also won the same price for the Best Latin Group (Marco Antonio Da Costa Group). 2013 he was the recipient of prestigious Sir Roland Hanna Award from City University of New York. 2013 Tuomo had a chance to bring his original compositions to the Montreal Jazz Festival (Canada), where he was a part of the Jazz Composers-Series.
Fall 2014 Tuomo was on the road with The One And Only Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, touring six weeks in The United States and Canada. After the first tour with the band, he has been working with the TDO ever since on a regular basis, touring all over The United States as well as in Portugal, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Mexico. In 2016 he also started his twice a month - residency at the world famous Smalls Jazz Club, performing his original music and hosting the jam session with his trio.
2015 Tuomo was commissioned to compose and perform as the headliner at the renowned Chelsea Music Festival in New York City, where he met drummer Olavi Louhivuori, one of the all-time leading drummers in the European Jazz Scene. From then on they created a project Northbound, that recorded its debut album which was released in 2017, featuring world famous Seamus Blake.
2016 Tuomo released his second album as a leader, Love Song, on Fresh Sound Records. The album has been extremely well received among critics and fans. In 2018, Tuomo was asked to join The Post Modern Jukebox for their 2018 European Tour, performing in Iceland, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Israel. Tuomo’s 3rd album as a leader, Stories From Here and There, featuring the legendary Chris Cheek was recorded in NYC September 2018 and will be released on Fresh Sound New Talent July 1, 2019 [...]"
http://www.keysandchords.com (July 1, 2019)
"Tampere, Finland born Tuomo Uusitalo began playing piano at the age of six. He attended the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria where he graduated with honors in 2012. Shortly thereafter, he moved to New York and has since established himself as a regular force in the NYC jazz scene. He was noted as saying that he liked the spontaneity and improvisation jazz offered. "Stories From Here and There," his third release, is a collection of a more mellow based, piano centric, traditional jazz sound. Basically, the instrument lineup includes Uusitalo on piano, accompanied by saxophone, bass and drums. While the melodies are certainly on the softer side, they are no less enjoyable and listenable. Uusitalo is a composer, producer, and perhaps best of all, a teacher of music. If traditional jazz done in a relaxed style is preferred, "Here and There" should certainly be highly regarded."
Paul Wilson (May 31, 2019)
"Pianist and leader Tuomo Uusitalo delivers impressive mainstream sounds as he goes trio and quartet with Myles Sloniker/b, Itay Morchi/dr and saxist Chris Cheek. In the more Spartan format, he shows his bop chops on the standard “Bouncing With Bud” and the team snaps to “Between Things” while showing class with Morchi’s brushes on “Solitude.” Cheek’s tenor is rich and languid on the Monkish “Be Good Or Be Gone” and reflective for a melancholy “Altitude 5003 Ft.” A post bopping “Many Mornings” has Uusitalo flexing his muscles, while his solo “Poem No. 8” glistens. Even better is a rich duet with Cheek on a fun “Boo Boo’s Birthday.” Both traditional and original."
George W. Harris (May 13, 2019)
"Chamber music and improvisation are sauteed in jazz dressing on Tuomo Uusitalo's latest release Stories From Here and There. The pianist-songwriter leads the quartet along multiple musical segments, exploring the sonic range and flexibility of the individual instruments and the various entanglements they form. Track after track, the compositions illuminate a ballroom glow. Some numbers display a soft glisten like "Solitude" and others delve deeper into abstract and avant garde terrain illustrated by the rustle and scramble of Uusitalo's keys making random scrolls across "Between Things" like a prospector on the trail of a goldmine.
Exhibiting an ingenuity for composing off-the-cuff sequences, Uusitalo has a propensity for making his random meanders sound melodic while keeping in harmony with the rest of the arrangement played by saxophonist Chris Cheek, bassist Myles Sloniker, and drummer Itay Morchi. His talent for structuring patterns with the piano keys demonstrates his leaning for animated movements and vivacious shifts. For instance, "Bouncing with Bud" is full of lively expressions, a tribute to Bud Powell. Perceptively, the ballroom feel of "Tonight You Belong To Me" has a nostalgic vibe, enhanced by the sensitive wails of Chris Cheek's saxophone, which contrast the up and down fluctuations in the instrumentation wobbling along "Many Mornings."
Each track stands alone, making explorations autonomous from one another. Uusitalo plays what he hears in his head, some of which is likely influenced by compositions that he has known and liked. The recording documents his explorations, developing one segment at time. The spontaneity taking place in the creations can be explained as being magical with jazz being the mechanism by which Uusitalo crafts infinite possibilities."
"New York City-based, Finland-born pianist, Tuomo Uusitalo, presents an exciting collection of original and cover tunes on “Stories From Here and There,” his third release as a band leader.
With an array of songs from legendary artists such as Irving Berlin, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, plus original songs by Uusitalo, “Stories From Here and There” sounds like a collection of some of the best jazz songs ever recorded.
Each song can be thought of as its own “story.” The themes are captivating and listeners can imagine a narrative of their own choosing to go along with the expressive soundtrack provided by Uusitalo and company.
A compact recording of 11 well-executed songs, “Stories From Here and There” has a lively energy that engages listeners immediately. As for style, there is an old-school jazz feel that permeates all of the songs, including Uusitalo’s original pieces.
Uusitalo is joined by Chris Cheek on saxophone on six of the 11 tracks. The rest of the quartet is completed by Myles Sloniker on bass and Itay Morchi on drums.
The songs are a mix of long and short. From the six-plus minute “Solitude” (Ellington) to the 34-second “Poem No. 8–Crepuscule.” In general, there is a rhythmic clatter of drums that helps to orient audiences.
The recording opens with “Be Good or Be Gone,” an original song. A saxophone motif swings in an almost melancholy way. The expected notes don’t equal the blues, ultimately. Then, the entire quartet rushes in and the mood lifts. When the drums slow their rhythm, they make way for a saxophone showcase. The bass and drums complement each other, while the piano accents the soundscape.
A song that shouldn’t be missed is Irving Berlin’s “Best Thing For You (Would Be Me).” The song’s running energy is captivating. The bass keeps pace with the drums and piano. The feats of virtuosity come through in speed and execution. It is fascinating to hear.
There is a great deal about “Stories From Here and There” to recommend it. The recording is a good example of contemporary jazz that takes its cues from classic songs."
Dodie Miller-Gould (April 25, 2019)