Quintessence is a widely respected orchestra especially in the local Finnish scene, which they helped to internationalise by their work especially during the first decade of 2000’s. It preceded more funk-orientated The Q-Continuum, which was built from the same lineup some years later. Quintessence was founded as a jazzy drum and bass trio, when guitarist Aki Haarala asked singer Emma Salokoski to join the project of Jouni Helminen a.k.a. DharmaOne in 1993.You can hear the original outcome of this on the title song of their debut EP White Light issued in 2001.
As a band, Quintessence started doing live shows in the early 2000’s, when bassist Heikki Laine, keyboard player and singer Tuomo Prättälä, drummer Teppo Mäkynen, who was later replaced by Mikko Kaakkuriniemi, and trumpetist Jukka Eskola (on loan from Nuspirit Helsinki and Jimi Tenor’s orchestra and later replaced by Verneri Pohjola) joined the group. All these musicians have been highly succesful since on their solo careers and among different projects, but Quintessence was the first noteworthy and long-term outfit with recorded releases for each one of them. Their sound developed with Prättälä from the earlier jamming into more melodic form with DharmaOne dropping off from the lineup.
Besides their debut EP, released by London-based Dorado Records, the band published only two albums: Talk Less Listen More issued in 2002 and 5 am two years later. Both of these were home runs for them and reached the official Finnish album sales charts. They are still today widely respected among the Finnish funkateers. The debut album was also a nomine for the best Jazz album of the year on EMMA Awards. It also drew attention abroad as for example the legendary British deejay and rhythm music connoisseur Gilles Peterson started playing it on his famous World Wide radio show, where the music of Quintessence was regularily also requested again and again by the listeners.
In 2021, Quintessence returned to celebrate their 20th Anniversary with the familiar lineup from the times of their first release. They did live shows for example at the Savoy JazzFest event (streamed online) in Helsinki together with the string section of Vantaa Orchestra as well as on Pori Jazz festival’s concert series. They have earlier also performed in several European countries from Estonia and Netherlands to Norway and UK.
Text: Joonas Kervinen / Funky Finland
2nd photo: Jonna Örnberg