Severi Pyysalo (b. 18.12.1967) has gained a reputation as one of the leading vibes wizards in the world. He first began playing drums at the age of six and entered the Turku Conservatoire three years later to start his classical studies. While there, he also acquired a taste for his instrument-to-be, the vibraphone.
Pyysalo made his mark as a vibes player at the Pori Jazz festival in 1982. The turning point in his career came two years later, when he was heard by Paquito D'Rivera and Sarah Vaughan. As a result, they both invited him to sit in for their own sets and a minor legend was born. A couple of weeks later Pyysalo got his first gigs in the USA, including a stint at the Village Vanguard with Paquito D'Rivera's quintet.
During his career Pyysalo has performed in most European countries and in the USA, Canada and Australia. He has played with McCoy Tyner, Frank Foster, Zoot Sims, Rick Margitza, Wayne Kratz, James Newton, Bobby Hutcherson and Bobby Bradford, to name just a few.
Pyysalo has also led his own groups, the No Hope Band (1987-89) and The Front (1990-94), which both frequently toured his home base, Finland. The Front was chosen as the best and the most interesting group performing at the Nordic Radio Jazz Days held in Copenhagen in July 1991.
In 1987 Pyysalo enrolled at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where his partnership with sax ace Jukka Perko also got off the ground. Their band, the Perko-Pyysalo Poppoo, also featuring drummer Marko Timonen and bassist Eerik Siikasaari, released its debut album Garden of Time in 1993. Its forthcoming third album, to be released in January 1998, will feature a new, young and talented rhythm section with Ville Huolman on bass and Teppo Mäkynen on drums.
Pyysalo has received music awards both in Finland and abroad. In 1988 he was chosen the Jazz Musician of the Year by the Finnish Jazz Federation, In 1993, during the Leverkusener Jazztage in Germany, he was nominated European Jazz Soloist 1993. In the same year Severi was also nominated Jazz Artist of the Year by BAT Finland Ltd and the Pori Jazz festival, while the Perko-Pyysalo Poppoo was one of the winners of the Young Finland Prize nomination made by the Ministry of Culture.
In autumn 1995 the Poppoo made an extensive three-week tour of Australia. Two years later, Pyysalo toured Asia, Australia and New Zealand and recorded with the Danish pianist Thomas Clausen known for his long collaboration with Gary Burton. During these tours Pyysalo also held percussion clinics at various music schools. Severi is also a featured member of the all-Nordic band led by the Swedish bass ace Anders Jormin and the partnership begun in 1994 looks all set to continue.
During the past few years Pyysalo has been concentrating more and more on composing. He has, however, not restricted himself solely to jazz and has developed a sizeable interest in crossover music. The Helsinki Festival, among others, commissioned him to write a percussion work for septet in 1995 and the Radio Symphony Orchestra an orchestral work the following year. These works take 20th century concert music as their starting point. Just recently he has also branched out into children's music, composing the incidental music for 25 fairy tales by the brothers Grimm to be shown on television.