Olli Hirvonen is a dynamic and virtuosic Finnish-born, New York based guitarist. Winner of the Socar Montreux Jazz Electric Guitar competition in 2016 (the jury was presided over by John McLaughlin), Olli releases his second album, New Helsinki on Edition Records. New Helsinki is an album that promises to ignite the attention of the international media and fans worldwide with its deft infectious melodies, irresistibly bold grooves and intense inventive soloing. A musician with a larger vision and a commanding spirit, Olli Hirvonen, is a supremely gifted guitarist and composer. With New Helsinki Hirvonen has thrown down his calling card and demonstrated the promise that will inevitably thrust his career and profile in an upward trajectory towards international acclaim.
Born in Finland, in 1989, Olli Hirvonen moved to New York in 2011 to study at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. As Olli explains:
I wanted to live in NYC since I started to practice jazz seriously. I knew that this was a place where the “tradition” of it is still breathing and evolving, instead of it being just a piece of history…Moving to NYC felt very natural. It’s definitely a very difficult city to live in (ask any musician and they’ll tell you that!)…but people here are willing to make sacrifices, and reject a comfortable life for the pursuit of something else: improvement of their expression, and knowledge of the music. This struggle connects all the musicians here, and makes the community here unique…
On comparing the Helsinki scene with New York, Olli explains: I think the special thing about working as a musician in NYC is that I can play so many more gigs …there’s a no better way to “pay your dues” like playing jazz four hours a night four times a week for some years, which I have definitely done. ..”
New Helsinki presents seven original compositions by Hirvonen. The intense and vibrant opener ‘Arps’, clearly sets the scene for what’s to come. Musically, he’s woven influences from all areas he’s been exposed to. ‘Before getting serious about jazz, I was totally into rock and metal, My Finnish background is definitely an important part of my music, but as jazz is definitely black American music, I would never want to avoid the core elements that make it what it is, it’s language, rhythm, and improvisation’.
New Helsinki is a bold and ambitious album with a clear statement of intent. One thing is for sure, a new and important artist has arrived on the international scene and one to watch from both sides of the Atlantic.