Iiro Rantala & Ulf Wakenius

Biography Iiro Rantala & Ulf Wakenius

Iiro Rantala
(b. 1970) started his piano and music studies at the Music School of Käpylä and in the Cantores Minores Choir at the age of 7. In 1983 Rantala was accepted to the Pop & Jazz Conservatory of Oulunkylä where he studied under Seppo Kantonen and composed his first songs for Ikivirheät-group where played also drummer Sami Kuoppamäki and saxophonist Manuel Dunkel. Rantala was also a member of Upi Sorvali's (1952-1989) Big Bad Family before the death of the drummer-leader.

In 1988 Rantala started his studies at the jazz department of the Sibelius Academy and already the same year he formed Trio Töykät with Eerik Siikasaari and Rami Eskelinen. Trio developed an original concept where Rantala's compositions were backed up with the skills and arrangements of the trio and the repertoire included more humor than Finnish jazzbands usually had in their music in the 1980s. Already on the year the group was formed Trio Töykeät won the Hoeilaart European Jazzband Contest in Belgium. The group played their first Finnish Jazz Federation tour in 1989 and the debut album Päivää! (Sonet) was released the next year.

In 1990-1993 Rantala and Eskelinen studied both in New York at the Manhattan School of Music but Rantala was disappointed in the jazz education of the school and took classical piano studies instead. When Rantala and Eskelinen returned to Finland, Trio Töykeät performed actively around the world, for example in Cuba, Mexico, Europe, Australia and Asia. Trio released high-quality albums regularly and Jazzlantis released in 1995 won the Jazz Emma Prize as the Jazz Recording of the Year in 1995. In the same year, and the year after that, first Siikasaari and then Rantala were awarded with the Georgie, Yrjö, Award as the Jazzmusician of the Year. Trio Töykeät was also honoured to be the first jazzband ever to play at the Presidential Independence Day Reception in 1996.

In the beginning of the 21st century Trio Töykeät released several high-quality albums and performed still actively abroad and in Finland. In 2008 Trio Töykeät however announced, after over 2000 gigs, 43 countries and seven albums, that they are breaking up. There was not any drama involved in the decision to quit: the group just felt that it had come to the end of it's journey. All in all Trio Töykeät was one of the most famous Finnish jazzbands in the 1990's, probably even the most popular.

Besides Trio Töykeät, Rantala has been composing music for different occasions. Only as a soloist for an orchestra he has performed several times but he has also composed lots of classical music and music for films, theatre plays and musicals. Rantala has hosted his own tv-shows Iirottelua and Iiro irti! on the channel TV1 and he is the artistic leader and the producer of the Kansi auki! Piano Jazz Festival organized annually in Helsinki in November. The most recent groups for Rantala have been Iiro Rantala New Trio with guitarist Marzi Nyman and beatboxer Felix Zenger that performed in 2006-2010 and My History of Jazz -project that was dedicated for the past idols of Rantala.

Ulf Wakenius
(b. 1958) in Halmstad, Sweden. Ulf Wakenius. A jazz guitarist extraordinaire acclaimed and celebrated all over the world. Between 1997 and 2007 Ulf held what may have been the most prestigious spot in jazz for a guitarist: a chair in the Oscar Peterson Quartet.This was the coronation of a career which included many record-breaking moments.Wakenius guitar duo Guitars Unlimited rocked Scandinavia in the early 80s, culminating in the 1985 Melody Grand Prix, which was seen by 600 million viewers, probably the largest audience a jazz guitar duo ever had. Shortly after that Wakenius started a extremely successful and long-lasting collaboration with the legendary bass player Niels-Henning Örsted Pedersen.( NHOP), and both of his duo albums with bass icon Ray Brown, topped the US Jazz Charts.The last few years he's been touriing the world with the amazing Korean singer Youn Sun Nah.

Oscar Peterson has publicly described Ulf as one of the greatest guitarists alive in the world today and many of today’s most acclaimed jazz guitarists are among Ulf’s fans, including Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, John Scofield and Mike Stern. Great Rhythmic feel combines with a extraordinary lyrical touch- his emphasis is always on melodies and groove. He has been filmed by Clint Eastwood. His next release on ACT will be Ulf Wakenius-Solo "Momento Magico“.

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