Esa Pietilä

Esa Pietilä

 Helsinki, Central Finland, FIN

Esa Pietilä´s groups explore new improvisational fields of freejazz expression. He has performed at many international festivals and his playing and recordings has been thanked by well-known critics like Stuart Nicholson (UK), Laurence Donohue-Greene (AllAboutJazz-New York),, Cadence USA, Brent Black (Critical Jazz, USA), Henning Boltne (All About Jazz)


At his teens Esa Pietilä studied saxophone at Sibelius-Academy (Helsinki) and privately with worldwide known David Liebman & Ellery Eskelin in NYC plus at multitude of masterclasses in Europe & USA.

His playing and recordings has been thanked by such internationally well-known critics, reviewers and editors like Stuart Nicholson (UK), Laurence Donohue-Greene (AllAboutJazz-New York),Don Williamson (,Robert Spencer,(Cadence USA), Matthew Wuethrich (ALL ABOUT JAZZ) etc.

Esa´s original style and various groups: Trio, Liberty Ship, 4 Streams, solo saxophone concerts etc., have stabilized his position performing on the national / international jazz circuit, and have led him to play in USA, Canada, Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Iceland, England, USA, Australia, New Zeeland, Brazil and Cuba… He has performed with the names like Paal Nilssen-Love, Michael Jefry Stevens, Jeff Siegel, Harvey Sorgen, Karl Berger, Mark Helias, Mathias Eick, Mike Nock, Claudio Fasoli, Heiri Kaenzig, Anders Begcrantz, Ron McClure, Odean Pope, Raoul Björkenheim, Brian Melvin, Iro Haarla, Markku Ounaskari, Uffe Krokfors, Filip Augustson, Hilmar Jensson, Johannes Mössinger, Kjartan Valdemarsson, Fabian Kuratli,...Along with his engagements at international festivals, Esa has also been a regular visiting teacher and lecturer at annual IASJ symposium led by Davib Liebman

Pietilä´s uncompromising approach to music, search for new angles and refusal to walk the trodden path betray his lofty ambitions. He injects immediacy and surprise into his playing by going for unplanned gems that like-minded interaction can discover through spontaneous playing. His interests are as much about implication - the spaces between the dots he punches out - as about literal adherence to pre-written composition.

His groups explore new improvisational fields of freejazz expression, and they have performed with success in many Scandinavian and European festivals & clubs on the recent years. The openness for free improvisation eg. of Esa´s Trio, and the elaboration upon the conventional roles of their instruments, highlights a larger goal: creating a unified group identity.

In 2007 Pietilä started a series of totally improvised solo saxophone concerts, which will continue annually. He release the studio version of recordings of improvisations in 2009.

"At the Solo concerts, the virtuosity of his tecnique and the tonal colours Esa Pietilä creates in multitude textures belong into to the elite of saxophone expression. His capabilities to let the saxophone ring from variety of minimalism whispers to full free blowing, results a rich palette of colourful shapes of multiphonics, chordal tones, rhythmic surprises, and even fuga-like approach of inner dialogue."


"A solo saxophone work from arguable the finest saxophonists from Eastern Europe in Karhea from Esa Pietila.....Pietila clearly shows why his prolific talent has his work revered by the masters of their craft. Karhea is a landmark release for one of the finest saxophone player that I have had the exception to hear. Eg. the tune"Lighting's Surprise" is a master class in the art of the tenor sax. With the exception of Ivo Perleman, Esa Pietila is now hitting his creative genius. Standing the test of time finds Esa Pietila simply aging like fine wine. Pietila gets better and more robust with age. A no brainer for sure...

- CriticalJazz, USA / Brent Black

“Esa is one of Finland's leading jazz musicians and a dedicated jazz educator. I recommend his albums Direct (Fiasko Records) with Uffe Krokfors on bass and Markku Ounaskari on drums as well as the album Fulica Acra that followed, which show his scope and imagination as a player.”

- Professor Stuart Nicholson, Author, Journalist, Lecturer

About solo saxophone CD "Karhea"....Congrats on the new CD - it's FANTASTIC!

- AllAboutJazz-New York (Laurence Donohue-Greene )

"while never resorting to the tired bag of tricks that so few have been able to resist before him".

- Cadence, USA

Esa is a wonderfully gifted saxophonist and composer. I can highly recommend Esa as a composer, performer and educator.”

- Michael J. Stevens, member, International Society of Improvised Music

More info of Esa´s groups and the solo concerts at The website contains streaming tunes, videos of the groups, interviews, reviews, blog guestbook etc.


selected discography as a leader :

- Duo Jeff Siegel & Esa Pietilä, "Out Doors", 2012, ARCD 2420

- Brain Inventory Trio, "WALL", Michael Jefry Stevens, Esa Pietilä & Juho Laitinen - 2012, KONNEX Records, KCD 5284

- "Karhea", Improvised Solo saxophone - Fiasko Records, 2009 FRCD 41

- Esa Pietilä Trio,"Travel of Fulica atra", Fiasko Records, 2007 FRCD 31

- Esa Pietilä Trio, "Direct", Fiasko Records, 2003 FRCD 13

- Esa Pietilä Quartet feat. Anders Bergcrantz, "Fastjoik" 1998 A-records/ Challenge, AL 73147

- The Case " Codes " 1996, Tricks music TMCD 1196

streaming tracks of music at:

Set List

Groups: One concert set between one hour - 1 1/2 hour
Optionally two sets 45 min. each

Solo Saxophone:
One hour set (optionally with short intermission 5-10 min.)