The islands in the archipelago around Turku, Finland are popular for a range of different activities during summer – boating, swimming, island hopping, and enjoying a glass of wine in the midnight sun. A relatively recent pastime is listening to jazz at the annual Turku Sea Jazz.

First held under Covid restrictions in the summer of 2021, the popular Turku Sea Jazz will take place for the fourth time this summer, from 31 July to 3 August. It is part of a family of four archipelago festivals, which includes the traditional Baltic Jazz, Korpo Sea Jazz and, more recently, Åland Sea Jazz. Each festival has its own focus, and Turku Sea Jazz offers a youthful and grooving repertoire.

Dancing under the midnight sun at Turku Sea Jazz

The hostel boat Bore. Photo: Aleks Talve

The artistic director of Turku Sea Jazz is musician Jussi Fredriksson. The festival aims to highlight dynamic international performers as well as popular domestic ones and hopes to connect its jazz roots with other genres of music, including soul, hip-hop, electronic, and world music.

A tremendous amount of planning goes into the festival, according to Sanna Vartiainen, producer. “The biggest names are usually booked a year before the event,” she says. “Every year, we also try to come up with something new and exclusive. For smaller gigs, artists are often determined by the facilities of the venue; whether a grand piano can fit, whether sound reproduction is needed, how many musicians can be on the stage, and so on. Bookings may happen at the very last minute, even right before the program is released!”

Dancing under the midnight sun at Turku Sea Jazz

Arriving at Seili island. Photo: Aleks Talve

Exciting and eclectic line-up this year

The festival’s line-up for this summer promises to be exciting and eclectic. “There will be daytime concerts in Turku’s maritime museum, Forum Marinum, on Wednesday 31 July with top names in domestic jazz such as Linda Fredriksson, Severi Pyysalo, Kaisa Mäensivu, and Eero Koivistoinen,” says Vartiainen.

Finnish jazz legend Olli Ahvenlahti, who recently released a new album, will perform on the penultimate evening of the festival, Friday 2 August. The second band on Friday will be jazz visionary Teppo Mäkynen’s The Stance Brothers. And Saturday 3 August promises the new band of soul genius Tuomo plus another exciting experience, top Finnish-Palestinian trio Wishamalii with a world music flavour. Vibraphone master Panu Savolainen’s solo concert fits well with the historical atmosphere of the Seili Island church, which is also the venue for several other acts. More experimental jazz is suitable for the atmosphere of the island and the Superposition Quartet, which is currently on tour, is a good choice.

Whilst the festival’s opening day programme is free, you can also listen to jazz musicians at Forum Marinum for four days for just the price of a museum ticket. Forum Marinum’s main concerts cost 45 euros per night, with discounted tickets available for students, senior citizens and children. The Seili Island concert trip on 1 August costs 70 euros and includes boat transport. And on 3 August, there will be a special concert and a three-course Sea Jazz dinner for 85 euros.

Jazz music is growing in popularity in Finland and top-level jazz musicians trained here are highly valued internationally. Musicians who dare to break genre boundaries with their own sound are rising in global popularity, for instance, saxophonist Linda Fredriksson and trumpeter Verneri Pohjola. Turku Sea Jazz is working on boosting jazz appreciation by hosting the Jazz Camp for Girls, which is a globally spread concept originally launched by the Danish Jazz Association.

Dancing under the midnight sun at Turku Sea Jazz

The concert venue at Forum Marinum. Photo: Juha Kurri

Turku as a memorable destination

Vartiainen emphasises the festival’s fantastic location. “Our festival’s highlight is the world’s most beautiful archipelago. Turku is the gateway to the archipelago in the Baltic Sea,” she says. “Visitors can experience this during our concerts on Seili Island or on a picnic cruise to Åland. In addition, the 700-year-old Turku castle is located by the sea. You can walk along the beautiful riverside and learn more about the history of Finland’s oldest city. And our most active jazz scene can also be found here.”

Besides the festival, Turku attracts visitors because of its culture and hospitality. “Turku has wonderful restaurants, from Göran for seafood, to Smör for fine dining, and Tiirikkala for Sunday brunch,” Vartiainen adds. “There is a variety of places to stay, but you should book hotels well in advance. You might even come across jazz musicians at the breakfast table!”

Dancing under the midnight sun at Turku Sea Jazz

A concert on the island of Seili during Turku Sea Jazz Festival. Photo: Aleks Talve

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