Otherword Ensemble at Kerubi Joensuu Jazzkerho76 photo by HeikkiAhtola
Otherword Ensemble photo by Heikki Ahtola at Jazzkerho76, Kerubi, Joensuu Finland 2019
Otherworld Ensemble is a joint project lead by Finnish Jazz Legend Heikki "Mike" Koskinen and Finnish-American saxophonist and composer Rent Romus. Their music is inspired by Finno-Ugric mythopoetic structures, and traditional forms featuring some of the most creative musicians in the Finnish music scene. The spark of inspiration came after Romus toured Denmark in the mid-nineties working with musicians who were integrating their cultural traditions with African-American music. Romus realized the music he grew up with could serve as a platform and research tool into his own lost heritage. The “Other World” theme references heritage found deep in the “Body of Memory” embedded in the ensemble's musical psyche refracted through the lens of improvisation, folk, and composition.

The music consists of original melody and improvised transitions inspired by the epic rune poems of the Kalevala, northern regional folk songs, traditional healing arts, animistic elements, and jazz. Their arrangements range from small to large instrumental ensembles with voice augmented by traditional instruments such as kantele, bells, handmade reed instruments, and overtone flutes. The music utilizes these elements while embedded structurally in ways that abstractly reference a Finnish and American aesthetic.

In 2023 the Otherworld Ensemble will present music from Itkuja Suite, an exploration on the healing music of Finnish Nordic lament and life affirming elements of jazz. Along with vocalist and renowned professor emeritus Heikki Laitinen, Rent Romus and Heikki Koskinen will be joined by multi-instrumentalist Otto Eskelinen, bassit Eero Tikkanen, and drummer percussionist Arwi Lind.

Otherworld Ensemble EPK

Press Quotes
"The music itself had a vision and power. At its finest there was even something reminiscent of the magic of Charles Mingus, while at its wildest it approached Albert Ayler's fire & fury, and then sometimes featured three kanteles, or the gentle calls of Koskinen's tenor recorder." - Jyri Ojala, The Karelian, Joensuu Finland

"John Tchicai's "Afrodisiaca" (1969) was the one that came to my mind after listening to this work. This work is a landmark, a searching passage point of music but a departure that updates the creation of music." - A Challenge To Fate, Tokyo Japan

"The moods of the modern shamanistic rhythms linked up seamlessly with very deeply probing sax and trumpet parts, where Heikki’s gorgeously clean trumpet voices were contrasted by Rent and Tane’s intermittently harrowing sax lines. " - Jyrki Kallio, Rytmimusiikkia Finland

"The band, together with Heikki Koskinen, Mikko Innanen, Teppo Hauta-aho and Olavi Louhivuori created fine textures and complex grooves which swung despite their complexity."- Jan-Erik Holmberg, HBL

"When Simo Laihonen joined the group the music evolved into burning “free bop”, with Romus blowing dense “Coltraneish” sheets of sound while Koskinendelighted with his e-trumpet..." - Jussi Niemi, Tampere Aamulehti, Finland


Listen

2023 Performing Artists

Heikki Koskinen• tenor recorder, e-trumpet, flutes, kantele
Rent Romus•alto saxophone, kantele, flutes, bells
Heikki Laitinen•voice, percussion
Otto Eskelinen•alto saxophone, flutes, percussion, accordion
Eero Tikkanen•double bass
Arwi Lind•percussion

2019 Performing Artists
Heikki Koskinen• tenor recorder, e-trumpet, flutes, kantele
Rent Romus•alto saxophone, kantele, flutes, bells
Heikki Laitinen•voice, percussion
Mikko Innanen•baritone, alto saxophone, flutes, percussion
Eero Tikkanen•double bass
Teppo Hauta-aho•double bass, cello
2017 Performing Artists
Heikki Koskinen• tenor recorder, e-trumpet, flutes, kantele
Rent Romus•alto saxophone, kantele, flutes, bells
Mikko Innanen•baritone, alto saxophone, flutes, percussion
Teppo Hauta-aho•double bass, cello
Olavi Louhivuori•drums, percussion
Simo Laihone•drums, percussion
Ville Rauhala•double bass
Tane Kannisto•tenor saxophone


Photo Gallery
Heikki "Mike" Koskinen photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Heikki "Mike" Koskinen photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Mikki Innanen photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Rent Romus photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Eero Tikkanen photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Otherworld Ensemble photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Heikki Laitinen photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Teppo Hauta-aho photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Markku Salo photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Markku Salo photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Markku Salo photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Markku Salo photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Markku Salo photo by Sakari Puhakka at Laulumiehet Helsinki Finland 2019 Rent Romus photo by Jyrki-Kallio Telakka Tampere 2017 Simo Laihonen & Rent Romus photo by Jyrki-Kallio Telakka Tampere 2017 Heikki Mike Koskinen & Teppo Hauta-aho photo by Jyrki-Kallio Telakka Tampere 2017 Heikki "Mike" Koskinen photo by Jyrki Kallio at Telkka Tampere Finland 2017 Tane Kanniston photo by Jyrki-Kallio Telakka Tampere 2017 Ville Rauhalan photoby Jyrki-Kallio Telakka Tampere 2017 Rent Romus photo by Jyrki-Kallio Telakka Tampere 2017 Teppo Hauta aho photoby Jyrki-Kallio Telkka Tampere 2017Simo Laihonen photo by Jyrki-Kallio Telkka Tampere 2017


About the Musicians 2023

Rent Romus is a saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist, composer, bandleader, music producer, and community leader hailed by Downbeat as having "...a bold sound, unmistakable sincerity and conviction". A third generation Finnish American born in the great north of upper Michigan and growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Romus' work on the saxophone beginning in 1988 has been dubbed “ferocious” by the San Francisco Weekly and “central to the creative music world of the West Coast” by writer jazz critic Frank Rubolino. From his very beginnings as a student of jazz while being exposed to the twilight tutelage of Stan Getz he found himself drawn to the outer realms of Sun Ra and Albert Ayler, as well as Arthur Blythe, Derek Bailey and the far reaches of Merzbow. He currently leads the Lords of Outland a free improvisation unit since 1994, the Life’s Blood Ensemble a compositional contemporary ensemble, and leads the Finnish/American group Otherworld Ensemble. He has recorded over 40 albums exploring improvisation and composition in a wide variety of musical settings both as a leader and sideman which have included Chico Freeman, John Tchicai, Vinny Golia, Teppo Hauta-aho, Heikki Koskinen, Thollem McDonas, Stefan Pasborg, James Zitro, Marcos Fernandez, and Ernesto Diaz-Infante to name a few. He is the founder of Edgetone Records with over 30 years of independent music production, and performance experience as well as the founder and Executive Director of Outsound Presents under which curates the bi-weekly music series known as SIMM at the Musicians Union Hall, the weekly Luggage Store Gallery Creative Music Series, as well as annual Outsound New Music Summit, the Bay Area's creative music festival held every summer in San Francisco.

Co-director
Heikki "Mike" Koskinen has played a key role in the completion of the cycle. His cultural insight and extensive performance history made it possible for Romus to put the final touches on the cycle through literary translation, clarification on the Kalevala storylines and background, and musical consultation. He has been a key musical figure in the Bay Area jazz and Finnish music communities. Chosen in “Rytmi” magazine critics polls as Finland’s top jazz trumpet player in the 1970’s. He left his native Finland to study jazz at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1973. He later moved to San Francisco in 1977. Koskinen is the recipient of several Finnish composing grants, recorded several albums, and won awards as an innovative children’s music teacher. His 1980’s Bay Area bands, with Heikki on trumpet featured such musicians as Hadley Caliman, Steve Heckman, Mark Levine, Joe Bonner, Bennie Green, Larry Hancock and Michael Spiro. He has worked extensively over the years with bassist Teppo Hauta-aho and saxophonist Mikko Innanen recording his most recent album Kellari Trio on Edgetone Records in 2015.

Heikki Laitinen, is a doctor of philosophy and professor emeritus of folk music at the Sibelius Academy, a researcher of folk tradition, musician, performance artist, composer, and poet. His work is always marked by a deep passion for discovery from traditional sources. As an artist, he is a modernist and a reformer, even if the inspiration for the performance is sourced from traditional folk culture. Research and art have always been in direct interaction, his work balancing between folkloristics and musicology. Dr. Laitinen was the director of the Institute of Folk Music at Kaustinen from 1974 to 1983. He was a lecturer in the Department of Folk Music at the Sibelius Academy from 1983 to 2001 and a professor from 2001 to 2008. He has also been extensively involved in many positions of trust in the field of tradition and culture, e.g. In the Society of Finnish Literature, and the Kalevala Society. He has received the Lönnrot Prize (1995), Kalevala Koru Cultural Foundation Recognition Prize (2000) and State Prize for Music (2008), and appears on the latest Otherworld Ensemble recording Return from Manala (2019).

Otto Eskelinen (1981) is a Finnish woodwind player and composer. Lately he has specialized in building primitive self-made wooden flutes, both composing and performing with them. Since 2013 he has been working with the finno-ugric avantgarde group The Mystic Revelation Of Teppo Repo. Otto’s first solo-album Pindarin sävel(Helmi levyt) was released on July 2020. He plays also with Finnish folk/jazz band Uusi Aika which just released a new album Uusi Aika (WeJazz).

Bassist Eero Tikkanen (b. 1987) has become a sought-after bass player in the field of Finnish jazz. The versatility of the young bassist stretches from danceable groove to projects of free jazz. He is known as a charismatic and expressive live performer. Currently, Tikkanen plays in the ranks of such groups as Mopo, The Mystic Revelation of Teppo Repo, Sole Azul, MINE, Magnetia Orkesteri and in the band of folk artist Joose Keskitalo.