Four strong voices of Signe bring Sappho's poetry, Finnish folklore and dramatic expression to the Nordic Jazz Comets showcase at London's Barbican Centre on the festival's final Sunday, November 25.
Signe means a female triumphant in old Scandinavian. In other languages same or similar word means a ‘sign’, a reference to the improvisation incorporated in the band’s music, taking traditional jazz expression in new directions through the unusual lineup of four female voices of
Josefiina Vannesluoma, Riikka Keränen, Selma Savolainen and Kaisa Mäensivu, who also masters the vivid double bass in Signe.
The band released their debut EP in 2017 and the first full-length album is due in February 2019.
The Nordic jazz organizations in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden present a showcase of five Nordic ensembles in partnership with EFG London Jazz Festival. The showcase is opened by the young Icelandic piano virtuoso Baldvin Snær with his quintet and the Finnish Signe takes the stage right after. The three other bands in their running order are I Just Came From The Moon, a Danish five-piece, BounceAlarm!, a sextet from Norway, and Don-Qui Five, a quintet hailing from Sweden; all big ensembles with a variety of traditional jazz instruments. Signe is the sole vocal jazz act in the showcase, and their main languages are Finnish and Swedish. The band themselves consider their stripped instrumentation and exotic elf-languages as stand-out factors:
"The language of the lyrics might be local, but the language of music is universal", says Riikka Keränen of Signe. "After our performance at Oslo Jazz Festival, a Brazilian person came to us, stating that they knew nothing about Finland before our show, but after listening to us, they felt they understood and felt exactly where we came from. That's one of the coolest comments one can get!".
Signe's upcoming album draws influences from the poetry fragments that have survived from the pen of Sappho, the archaic Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Sappho's lyrical poems were originally accompanied by a lyre. Signe's interpretation of this is New York -based Kaisa Mäensivu's warm, yet sometimes even intimidating double bass. The composers include Josefiina Vannesluoma and Selma Savolainen. The group rushes into the Helsinki-based recording studio right after the London weekend, and they seem really excited about both:
"This is our first ever gig outside the Nordic countries", says Keränen. "It's fantastic to have this opportunity to meet new people and make new musical contacts, but the greatest part is to get to sing our new material to the audience – that hopefully is a huge one", laughs Keränen.
The partner of the annual Nordic Jazz Comets weekend is this year EFG London Jazz Festival. The showcase takes place at the famous Barbican Centre's Free Stage exhibition hall. The showcase is expected to draw an audience of over 2.000 people in total. In addition to the performance at the showcase, the young Nordic musicians participate in the festival's JazzWorks industry seminar the previous day, and have various networking events with the local jazz professionals, their Nordic artist colleagues, and with the project's professional guests from the fields of artistic programming and management.
Last year the Nordic Jazz Comets showcase and seminar took place in Berlin, as a part of the Scope festival. Next year, in 2019 the project travels to France, in local partnership with AJC – Association Jazzé Croise. Nordic Jazz Comets is a co-operational project by the Nordic jazz organizations FÍH Music School in Reykjavik, Jazz Danmark, Jazz Finland, Norsk jazzforum and Svensk Jazz. The two-year project in 2017–2018 is funded and supported by Nordic Culture Point, and coordinated by Jazz Finland.