PORI—Whoever had a raincoat was smiling.
The heavens opened and it poured for most of the main concerts of the Pori Jazz Festival, which began on Thursday (Jul. 14.) and finished with style and grace on the following Saturday.
This year, like so many times before, what people received and heard was exquisite, some of the finest in jazz, and rhythmical music at large.
It had been three long years since the festival was arranged in its complete setup with three stages, food vendors and masses of people at Kirjurinluoto Park after the government had mitigated the pandemic, going back and forth with restrictions.
At Pori Jazz this year the pandemic seemed like a relic from the past while the music with its roots reaching back to the early 1900s sounded fresh and exciting.
The crowd was hip and appreciative while quietly but cheerily immersing into concerts of legendary sax players headlining on records in the ‘80s, and now watching them on Lokkilava (The Seagull Stage) surrounded by birches, on the stage rising on green neatly cut grass: Joe Lovano and Kenny Garrett. When Charles Lloyd—the sax legend of the ‘70s—at the very same stage transferred the crowd into trance with smooth sounds in the age of 84, the audience seemed scared to breathe.
At other times the crowd danced in a frenzy while soaking into the deep groove of contemporary to-be-legends like the American Nate Smith Kinfolk and British Sons of Kemet where the drums and funky, syncopated rhythms made the heads nod so hard that the latter at Lokkilava provoked the security to try and stop all the dancing that was going on in front of the stage because, apparently, some sitting in the back row couldn’t see.
The dancers reacted with blank stares, and so continued the body rock, and the security sat in the back row.
“How many of you speak English?” asked Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall, the British soul and pop band founded in the early ‘80s that headlined Saturday evening.
Thousands in the crowd raised their hands and screamed.
“Wow! That doesn’t happen in England if I would ask how many of you speak Finnish.”
Simply Red naturally played hits going back four decades like “It’s Only Love,” but also some later songs such as “Fairport” (2003) with a disco and Brazilian feel and finished the set with:
If you don’t know me by now/You will never, never, never know me/Oooh!
With their famous interpretation of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” Hucknall and his soulful group wrapped things up with a swaying crowd, after making people jump and dance from joy with a wide selection of Simply Red’s oeuvre.
Other groups that charmed the audience with jazzy influences included Neal Francis who replaced the British Yola on Thursday afternoon. Francis is a Chicago-based keyboardist and songwriter who for many reasons reminded me of Shuggie Otis and Dire Straits. Francis’ “Problems” is a prime example of a flipped guitar riff that pays homage to one of the great rock songs of our times. (Check out Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23” to get a feel for how Francis sounded in the beginning of the set.)
The crowd swayed while their raincoats flapped in the wind during Francis’ gig, and then when it really started pouring he went straight into “Can’t Stop the Rain” from his sophomore album In Plain Sight (2021).
To learn more about what we experienced, kindly click on the gallery above.