Pori And All That Jazz

The organisers of Pori Jazz Festival were happy at this year’s attendance, but the Finnish media preferred to focus on whether it’s still a jazz festival.

Former entertainment programmer Jyrki Kangas, who booked the Pori bill for nearly 40 years, dismisses the view that it’s strayed too far from its jazz roots. He shrugs it off as “an argument that comes up every now and again.”

Kangas believes it came up again this year because the jazz purists among the music writers felt they may have a better chance of influencing the new booking team that replaced him when he retired in 2009.

“They’re saying the same old things but I think they felt they might have more influence by saying it to a new set of people,” Kangas explained, having spent the last year as an adviser to the team that replaced him.

He said many of the writers realise that an event like Pori needs at least four- or five-star names and it’s not easy to get them all from the jazz world every year. He says it’s no less of a jazz festival than Montreux Jazz in Switzerland or North Sea Jazz in The Netherlands, which have also gone beyond the genre when booking ticket-selling headliners.

Kangas believes the new booking team headed by Tuomas Kallio may look to book more small- and medium-sized jazz acts at the expense of the high-profile acts with wider appeal. He fears the policy carries the risk that the event may lose its old crowd before the new one is built.

Kallio has already promised to increase “the visibility of Finnish jazz.” Kangas will continue working with the festival under the new title of “senior adviser,” acting in a consulting role and continuing to develop the festival venues, services and surroundings.

This year Pori staged 140 concerts, 100 of which were free, attracting a total crowd of 150,000. It sold a little more than 60,000 tickets for the shows by the major acts. Toto had the biggest crowd with 18,000, while John Fogerty – who wasn’t added to the bill until the event had been on sale for two months – came second with 14,000.

Kangas says the late addition of Fogerty was what pushed the festival past its 60,000 target. In 2006 Sting’s headline appearance in the main arena pulled 36,000 and Kanye West did 18,000 in the same venue, helping Pori to gross sales of 75,000.

The other acts playing jazz or something else at Pori July 17-25 included Jeff Beck, Gil Scott Heron, Massive Attack, N.E.R.D, Tori Amos, The Roots, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, and Gotan Project.