UMO was established in 1975

In the middle of the 1970s, strange news spread from Helsinki – UMO was established in 1975! The founders included Heikki Sarmanto and Esko Linnavalli, the creators of the Finnish Jazz Music Workshop. In 1975, the group started working on an album which was to be called Our Latin Friends, taking its title from Heikki Sarmanto’s composition. During the recording process, the name of the orchestra changed. The workshop became Uuden Musiikin Orkesteri and was soon registered as an association. The name came from Markku Johansson, a founding member of the orchestra.

During its first year in 1975 – 1976, Uuden Musiikin Orkesteri looked to the government for financial support as well as to the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), and attempted to become the regional orchestra in the Uusimaa Region. Success, unfortunately, was hard to come by. For the next couple of years, the orchestra closely observed the situation, hoping their calls would be answered. Despite the lack of official support„ world-class stars performed with UMO right from the start. At the time, Esko Linnavalli, a founder of UMO, was in Jorma Panula’s conducting class with the currently world-renowned conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.

At the end of the 1970s, the orchestra’s difficult financial situation started to turn for the better. A UMO concert featuring Dizzy Gillespie was the sign of a new start: it was the first joint project between UMO, the City of Helsinki, YLE and the Ministry of Education. This formed the financial and administrative basis for the future of UMO, which, to this day, the orchestra is based on.

UMO operated as a part-time big band until 1984, when it became a full-time professional orchestra. This resulted from a tripartite agreement between the City of Helsinki, YLE and the Ministry of Education. The orchestra was no longer an experiment – UMO was here to stay. It can reasonably be said that the City of Helsinki saved UMO. The work of Deputy Mayor Heikki S. von Hertzen for the orchestra and the support of Veijo Varpio, the new Festival Director of the Helsinki Festival, were crucial for UMO’s operations.

UMO in the 1990s and now

UMO has toured successfully in the United States, Canada, Norway, Italy and Germany. In 1994, UMO made a significant European tour together with Natalie Cole. Two years later, the orchestra went on a six-week European tour with the world-famous vocal group Manhattan Transfer. Most recently, UMO performed a concert as part of the promotion tour for its album, Sauna Palaa!, in Canada in the summer 2007.

The orchestra was given the Finnish Music Award in 1991, and the Finnish Jazz Federation’s Yrjö Award has been granted to many orchestra members. In addition, UMO engages in musical education with school children by teaching in schools and playing samples of various rhythm music. The orchestra is also actively taking part in international events for exporting music and developing cooperation with other art forms.

UMO found a home  in August 2001 as UMO Jazz House was opened in the heart of Helsinki, providing a long-desired meeting place for lovers of live music. The orchestra’s office was located in the same facilities, which acted as a rehearsal space and concert hall for UMO, but also as a venue for other groups and clubs. In February 2007, the orchestra had to abandon the popular Jazz House because of significant moisture damage in the building and, since then, the orchestra has rehearsed and given concerts in various venues.

Currently, UMO’s repertoire consists of more than 2,200 compositions. This unique compilation expands every year as foreign orchestra leaders and soloists work with UMO. The orchestra’s visiting conductors and soloists have included such famous jazz names as Thad Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Gil Evans, Joe Williams, Mercer Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Maria Schneider, Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Tomasz Stanko and many others.

International cooperation has been very important for UMO and the development of jazz music in Finland. Since its inception, the orchestra has released 22 albums and taken part in a number of other recordings. UMO’s albums have been exceptionally well-received internationally.

Magnum Coltrane Price arrives on a motorbike. He has just come back from the countryside and his small cottage where he often goes to think, get inspired and give himself a break from the commercial bustle of the city. And yet, when you listen to his music it is not exactly nature that comes into your mind. Rather asphalt than birds singing. More anger and frustration over the state of the world than incipient love and sunsets. Reality music, he calls it. The lyrics cut like a knife through the noise of everyday life. This, on the other hand, isn’t so strange when you consider the fact that his name is Magnum. But when his jazz loving American father gave him this name, it wasn’t so much the gun (Magnum) he was thinking of, as of one of his idols, the saxophone player John Coltrane.

And maybe he is a romantic after all. For Magnum – or Mag as his friends call him – there has always been more to life than just to make music, to earn a fortune, and become a celebrity. “That kind of life would feel totally pointless. I want to do something that is greater than the music itself. I believe that music has the power to change the world, to make people strong and prepared to stand up for what they think. At least I want to believe that this is possible. I hope that my music attracts those who are tired of the ordinary, commercial stuff and who are looking for something that wasn’t made just to be aired on the radio. Those who don’t just want to be fed with a lot of bullshit.”

And “his” music… That is hip hop combined with soul, r&b and a substantial dose of funk on top.”I’ve got the funk in me. Funk is beautiful.” Just like Prince, Magnum does everything himself. He plays bass, drums, piano, saxophone. He also sings, raps, produces and writes music for other artists. On his CV you find collaborations with the Swedish jazz group Esbjörn Svensson Trio as well as some of the greatest pop stars in Sweden, such as Titiyo, Mauro Scocco and Lisa Nilsson. He participated on one of Janet Jackson’s albums and played with Mary J Blige on television. On top of that he is a member of – and one of the driving forces behind – the band Funk Unit which attracts full houses all over the world.

But maybe we should start from the beginning. And the beginning is just as intriguing as his music. His musical career started at the tender age of nine, in a small village consisting of 30 people in Northern Sweden. Together with his mother, Magnum lived in a tiny flat on top of a meeting hall for the local temperance society. “I don’t know why but in school I was thrown out of the class room all of the time. There was a piano outside, and after a while I did everything I could to get kicked out again…” “I knew I wanted to learn how to play bass”, he continues. “But at that time you had to start by taking flute lessons before you could move on to bass. And I just couldn’t do that…”

But Magnum was determined. He was to become a great bass player and in order to succeed – without having to go through the pain of playing flute – he started picking cones in the forest.  This way, he made enough money to buy his first bass guitar.

Why bass? ”My relatives in the US sent me some cassettes with funk, soul and jazz. Someone played slap bass and I just loved it.” Now there was just one remaining problem; young Mag had to find a PA-system to plug in the bass. Creative as he was he soon found the solution: the system that the temperance league used during their meetings… And so his life as a musician started. A young boy, with a big bass, sneaking into the premises of the Good Templars.

A couple of years later, at 14, he moved to his father in Detroit, and here his career took another and somewhat unexpected step forward when his grandmother forced him to go to church. “I hated it. But then I joined the church choir and started singing gospel. And that was fat music, man!”

His family background is, to say the least, multi-cultural – a fact that probably has influenced him musically as well. American father, Native American grandmother, Finnish mother with gypsy roots…no wonder that his music has the power to reach out all over the world.

Besides Prince he is influenced by George Clinton, Marvin Gaye, Roy Hargrove, D’Angelo, Slum Village among others. And the lyrics are just as important as the music. Magnum often finds inspiration in his daily life; in the media, politics, religion, and in everything that has to do with oppression. He hates oppression. Often, he starts writing a song about something he heard on the news. But never television news, Magnum doesn’t have a TV; he just couldn’t stand the stupefying effects. His political engagement – and the fact that he had become the father of a daughter – resulted a few years ago in a manifestation against the oppression of women. “I believe in equality, between women and men, but also between races and religions. And once you start caring about stuff like that, it is impossible to stop.”

He was only 19 when he signed his first contract with a record company in Sweden. Two singles were released before the company went bankrupt. Then a few years later a new contract and one LP, and then he and the company decided to say goodbye. Ever since, Magnum has lived on his music, recorded his own albums as well as working as producer and composer for other artists.

As a member of Funk Unit, he sold gold in Germany in 2007 with the albums “License to Funk” and “Funky Abba”. Ironically, the extensive international touring with Funk Unit has perhaps made him more well-known in far-off places like Korea, Russia, China and South Africa than in Sweden. “When we played in South Korea we experienced a ‘Beatles moment’, where the audience was cheering so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves play!” he laughs, thinking back of the slightly surreal experience.

Mag is the kind of guy who inspires and influences others. And yet, during the last couple of years, he has been in the shadow of other great artists. But then again, that may not be so strange, considering that Magnum insists on being the one to decide over his own music. After having experimented with soul, R&B and rap flavours on recent albums, he is now returning to a more organic, jazzy type of funk. This has resulted in fewer samples and production techniques, but a larger group of musicians. Fans can also expect to hear a number of exciting collaborations and duets with some of the top names of the Swedish music scene.

“I want to do my thing. I want to experiment and find out what it sounds like when you combine this chord with that one. I understand the fabric of music, I know how it works.” The conclusion? Magnum had enough of spending his time in the shadow; he is ready to step forward to show the world what he can do. Which probably also means that nobody will be able to stop him. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I am right!”

Supermusic is a Finnish-Swedish collaboration between UMO Jazz Orchestra and Magnum Coltrane Price. The soulful and funky album also features two prominent Swedish musicians: trombonist Nils Landgren and singer Viktoria Tolstoy. Supermusic will be released digitally worldwide on March 16 and in the US and Canada on March 27.

The roots of Supermusic can be found in the jazz, soul and funk of several decades that the soul of the project, Magnum Coltrane Price, draws his inspiration from. The 42-year-old Swedish-American “Mag” is a multitalented musician who in addition to singing and playing also writes music and lyrics and produces records. He has made an extensive career in both internationally and in his home country Sweden. Supermusic includes original music by Magnum and cover versions from the likes of The Meters, Prince, Donny Hathaway, D’Angelo, Lee Dorsey and Sammy Davis Jr.

01. Nekoti Rock (5:04)

(Magnum Coltrane Price, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solo: Nils Landgren (trombone)

02. Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow (Baretta’s Theme) (3:07)

(David Grusin/Morgan Ames, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solo: Pertti Päivinen (baritone sax)

03. Stuck in a Dream (6:36)

(Magnum Coltrane Price, arr. by Magnus Lindgren)

solo: Olli Ojajärvi (tenor sax)

04. Giving Up (6:22)

(Van McCoy, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

05. Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (5:20)

(Allen Toussaint, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solo: Teemu Salminen (tenor sax)

06. Hangover Sex (4:39)

(Magnum Coltrane Price, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solos: Erik Söderlund (electric guitar), Jouni Järvelä (alto sax)

07. Just Kissed My Baby (5:08)

(Ziggy Modeliste, Leo Nocentelli & George Porter Jr., arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solo: Nils Landgren (trombone)

08. Brown Sugar (4:24)

(Michael Archer & Ali Shaheed Muhammed, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solo: Seppo Kantonen (Fender Rhodes)

09. Believe (5:52)

(Magnum Coltrane Price, arr. by Magnus Lindgren)

solo: Olli Ojajärvi (tenor sax)

10. Mag Runs the Voodoo Down (6:11)

(Magnum Coltrane Price, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solos: Erik Söderlund (electric guitar), Seppo Kantonen (grand piano)

11. D.M.S.R. (Dance, Music, Sex, Romance) (7:57)

(Prince, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solos: Erik Söderlund (electric guitar), Tero Saarti (trumpet), Nils Landgren (trombone)

12. My Way 2 Say (6:16)

(Magnum Coltrane Price, arr. by Magnus Lindgren)

solos: Mikko Pettinen (trumpet), Seppo Kantonen (Grand Piano)

13. Remember to Forget (3:29)

(Magnum Coltrane Price, arr. by Pessi Levanto)

solo: Nils Landgren (trombone)



Super Music

Show more