Juhani Aaltonen (b. 1935) began his career as a free-lance musician in 1961 and, at the same time, also began his studies at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. After one year, Aaltonen dropped out of school and became a full-time musician. During the 1960s, he performed extensively with trumpeter Henrik Otto Donner, saxophonist Esa Pethman, pianist Heikki Sarmanto, percussionist Edward Vesala and many others. In addition, he was one of the founding members of the progressive rock group Tasavallan Presidentti. However, free improvisation has always been the preferred area of music for Juhani Aaltonen, his "mother tongue".
In the early 1970s, Aaltonen studied briefly at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and continued his cooperation with Heikki Sarmanto, Edward Vesala and others. Towards the end of the decade, he was a member of the quartet of the Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen for about three years. Aaltonen was also one of the founding members of the UMO Jazz Orchestra in 1975 and continued in the orchestra until he received a 15-year artist´s grant from the Finnish State in 1986.
During the 1980s, Aaltonen continued to work with, among others, Edward Vesala, Heikki Sarmanto, pianist Jukka Linkola, Henrik Otto Donner and vocalist Maija Hapuoja. As part of this cooperation, he performed as a soloist in a number of larger orchestral works, including Heikki Sarmanto´s "Suomi Symphony" and Henrik Otto Donner´s orchestral suite "The Spirit of the Valley".
During the 1990s, Aaltonen enjoyed a particularly close cooperation with Heikki Sarmanto, comprising a number of concert tours and recordings, including an eight-part suite for flute called "Pan Fantasy" and a composition for flute and piano called "Silver Spell". Since the late 1980s, he has also performed and recorded religious music.
Currently, Aaltonen leads his own trio that includes Ulf Krokfors on bass and Tom Nekljudow on drums. The trio´s first recording (Mother Tongue, TUM CD 002) was issued in May 2003 and received the Emma Award as the best jazz recording in Finland in 2003. Aaltonen was also featured with The Avanti! Chamber Orchestra on "Strings Revisited" (TUM CD 003), a collection of Henrik Otto Donner´s compositions for tenor saxophone and a chamber orchestra that includes Reggie Workman on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums.
Reggie Workman (b. 1937) started his career as a jazz musician in saxophonist Gigi Gryce´s band in 1958, and soon played with Freddy Cole, Red Garland, Roy Haynes and many others. After moving to New York in the early 1960s, he played in John Coltrane´s groups.
In the early 1960s, Workman established his position as one of New York´s leading young bass players performing with Art Blakey´s Jazz Messengers, Yusef Lateef, Herbie Mann, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Archie Shepp, Lee Morgan and several other leading modernists. In addition to recordings with John Coltrane (e.g., "Africa/Brass" and "Live at the Village Vanguard") for the Impulse record label, his recordings that are best remembered from this decade include numerous classic albums for the Blue Note record label.
Following the 1960s, Workman has continued to be known as one of the most important bass players in contemporary jazz, having played and recorded with Max Roach, Charles Tolliver, Billy Harper, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Mal Wadron, Elvin Jones, Marilyn Crispell, Oliver Lake and many others. In the early 1980s, Workman also became familiar to the Finnish audiences through his performances and recordings with Edward Vesala (Heavy Life, Leo Records 009) and Juhani Aaltonen (Prana, Leo Records 013).
Since the beginning of the 1980s, Workman has often led his own ensembles and has recorded several albums under his own name. He has frequently composed works for his own groups, various dance projects and other cross-cultural endeavors. Members of the Reggie Workman Ensemble have included Don Byron, Andrew Cyrille, Marilyn Crispell, Gerry Hemingway, Oliver Lake, Jeanne Lee, John Purcell and many others. Workman is also a member of Trio 3 (with Oliver Lake and Cyrille), the New York Art Quartet (with John Tchicai, Roswell Rudd, Milford Graves and Amiri Baraka), the New York Jazz Quartet (with James "Blood" Ulmer, John Hicks and Rashied Ali), the Archie Shepp/Roswell Rudd group (with Grachan Moncur III and Cyrille) and Brew (with Miya Masaoka and Gerry Hemingway).
Workman has been active in jazz education for over thirty years and currently serves as the Director of Curriculum and Professor at the jazz and contemporary music department of the New School University in New York City.
Andrew Cyrille´s (b. 1939) career as a professional musician began in the early 1960s and he is considered one of the most versatile percussionists within modern jazz. Already during his studies (1960-1964, Juilliard and Hartnett School of Music), Cyrille played with numerous well-established jazz musicians, such as Mary Lou Williams, Coleman Hawkins and Illinois Jacquet, and with representatives of modern jazz, such as Bill Barron, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Walt Dickersson, Kenny Dorham and Freddie Hubbard.
Cyrille is perhaps best known for his membership in the Cecil Taylor Unit that lasted for over ten years (1964-1975), during which he established his position as one of the leading percussionists in freely improvised jazz. Cyrille participated in two legendary recordings ("Conquistador" and "Unit Structures") by Cecil Taylor for the Blue Note record label and also played with many other leading musicians in modern jazz during this period.
Since the 1970s, Cyrille has led or co-led various ensembles, including Maono (with David S. Ware, Ted Daniel et.al.), The Group (with Ahmed Abdullah, Marion Brown, Billy Bang and Fred Hopkins) and the percussion ensemble Pieces of Time (with Kenny Clarke, Don Moye and Michael Carvin). In the past few years, Cyrille has also recorded with Oliver Lake, John Carter, David Murray, Muhal Richard Abrams, Roswell Rudd, Archie Shepp and many other leading names in contemporary jazz. Currently, he leads his own quintet and is a member of Trio 3 (with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman), the CDE Trio (with Marty Ehrlich and Mark Dresser), the Roswell Rudd/Archie Shepp group and a number of other ensembles. Recently, he has also been performing in a duo with Greg Osby.
Cyrille has been involved in jazz education since the early 1970s and is a faculty member of the jazz and contemporary music department of the New School University in New York City.