Interview with Iiro Rantala

Finnish Jazz pianist Iiro Rantala comes to Sligo this weekend to perform a unique solo concert here at The Model. Erin Fox had the chance to speak to him ahead of his performance.

EF: How would you describe your music to fans of jazz?
IR: It’s a mix of European classical tradition, jazz, tango and pop.
Sounds strange but I guess something like this is the outcome, when cousins marry each others for generations.

EF: What influenced you to become a jazz musician?
IR: Freedom. I realised I could use everything I know more freely. That I don’t have to be stuck with some written music, someone else wrote.
Freedom, Chick Corea and Keith Jarret to be correct.

EF: Your album Lost Heroes is dedicated to musicians who have inspired you. Who is your greatest musical influence?
IR: If I would have to choose one and I guess I do, I would say Leonard Bernstein. I think he was just great. A real visionary. Not only a fantastic musician but he worked hard to open up the music for people who have no previous touch with the concert music. An excellent communicator, that’s what he was.

EF: What other genres of music do you listen to?
IR: I very seldom listen music. My days are filled with music anyway. Not only when I practice or perform. There’s a “live broadcast” in my head all the time. Drives me almost crazy sometimes. So, I don’t listenBUT I love to go to concerts to hear live music as often I can.

EF: You’ve performed in groups as well as solo, what is your favourite instrument to play along to?
IR: I’ve dreamed of piano-drums duo for a long time in order to play the bass lines with my left hand. Haven’t found a perfect companion for this one yet.

EF: A lot of emotion and sensitivity has gone into your compositions, what are your feelings when you perform a completed work?
IR: Weird things happen during performance. Sometimes I see myself from a distance playing the piano, while I’m on stage. Usually from the point of the ceiling. I guess that’s as close you can get to an experience of “flow”.

EF: What do you think of Irish music?
IR: It’s uplifting. Sounds actually very funny to me. The Finns love minor and melancholies. Even the wedding waltzes are funeral sad. In Irish music I hear that it’s made for dancing and partying. In Finnish music I hear pessimism and no hope.

Iiro Rantala performs in The Niland Gallery at 8.30pm on Saturday 14th March. Book tickets.