First of all, a brief history of the man himself. Esko Linnavalli was a talented orchestra leader, arranger, composer and especially a very good pianist and organist. He started his career as a classic jazz pianist, but soon in the mid 1960s he started his job as an arranger and conductor at Scandia records. Later in the 1970s Linnavalli moved to RCA for a production manager vacancy. As an organist, Esko Linnavalli is clearly one of my favorites in Finnish music history and he is also behind some of the great Finnish jazz records. On the rocks (together with Esa Katajavuori), Finnish design, A good time was had by all to name a few. He was also involved with UMO jazz orchestra and Day is Over. And of course he and his band backed numerous Finnish artists throughout the years - Kirka, Danny, Carola, Lasse Mårtenson, Vesa-Matti Loiri, Kari Jalkanen (Kari Tapio) and so on… Esko Linnavalli died relatively young in 1991. He was only 50 years old.
In 1971 Esko Linnavallin Orkesteri (Esko Linnavalli Orchestra) released a Christmas album called Joulusoitto (Christmas play in English). With sublime arrangements of mr. Linnavalli, it’s one of the grooviest “traditional” Christmas albums I’ve ever heard. And if that’s not enough to convince you, there’s more. There’s pretty impressive line up with some of the key players of Finnish jazz scene; Christian Schwindt, Esa Katajavuori, Esa Pethman, Esko Rosnell, Heikki Laurila, Ilpo Kallio, Jörgen Petersen, Ossi Runne, Rauno Lehtinen, Reino Laine and more. The tracks are all instrumentals (except the scat vocals on one track) and mostly covers of the well known Christmas carols. There’s two original compositions of Linnavalli too. First up is “Rekiretki” (”Sleigh ride”, originally by Leroy Anderson), a latin influenced midtempo groover. Next up is Linnavalli’s own composition, “Joulusoitto” (Christmas play), a downtempo track with a slight easy listening feel. “Valkea Joulu” (”White Christmas” by Berlin Irving), “”Kello, joka ei soinut” (”The bell that couldn’t jingle” by Bobby Winton and Burt Bacharach) and “Sataa lunta” (”Let it snow” by Jule Styne) are all jazzy takes of the Christmas classics. Next up ar two really groovy ones. “Joulupukki matkaan käy” (”Santa Claus is coming to town by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie) is a funky version of this standard with great arrangements and even a break at the start. “Kuuraparta” (”Frosty the snowman by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson) is also a very good version of the standard with some funky drums and great synth works of Esko Linnavalli. “Joululaulu” (”The Christmas song by Mel Tormé) is a groovy downtempo one with a nice tender feeling. The last track is funky “Joulupukin aatto-ilta” (Santa Claus’ Christmas eve) by Esko Linnavalli. It’s a very nice ending to a very nice album. I just can’t praise this album enough, it’s that good.
Kello, joka ei soinut
Joulupukki matkaan käy