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Selma Savolainen

Selma Savolainen is a classically trained vocalist, composer, and lyricist from Finland. Her signature voice style seamlessly combines her country's folk traditions with modern jazz, avant experimentation, and indie singer/songwriter traits with sophisticated arrangements. In 2019 she issued Rubicon Songs as frontwoman for the psychedelic jazz-pop band Selma Juudit Alessandra. Since 2017, she has been a member of vocal quartet Signe. They released To Sappho in 2019, followed by the Phonemes ‎EP in 2021 and the full-length Morphemes in 2022. Savolainen also fronts vanguard jazz group Mikko Sarvanne Garden, who released Garden 0.5 in 2021 and Heräämisen Valkea Myrsky in 2022. Horror Vacui, her debut leader album, was released under her name by Whirlwind Recordings in 2023. Savolainen was born in 1993 in Helsinki. She is the daughter of pianist/composer Jarmo Savolainen (1961-2009), and dancer-actress Helena Haaranen of the Helsinki City Theatre. She began classical piano studies at age five. In 2011 she commenced vocal training at the Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory, a private student of world-renowned singer Sanni Orasmaa. She attended Sibelius High School (a music and dance institution). In 2013, after graduation, Savolainen began a jazz program at the Sibelius Academy studying singing and composition with Jenny Robson, Aija Puurtinen, Jukkis Uotila, and Jussi Kannastee. In 2016, Savolainen was selected for Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead residency at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. While there, she worked with singer Carmen Lundy, drummer Eric Harland, saxophonist J.D. Allen, and bassist Eric Revis. That same year and into 2017, she served in the jazz department of the Paris Conservatory. Savolainen co-founded the exploratory, jazz, vocal, and bass quartet Signe in 2017 with singers Josefiina Vannesluoma, Riikka Keränen, and double-bassist Kaisa Mäensivu. They issued a self-titled cassette that year. In 2018, Savolainen also founded Selma Juudit Alessandra, an experimental quartet melding jazz, post-punk, and psychedelia. Their debut album, Rubicon Songs, appeared in 2019. That year, Signe's long-player To Sappho appeared, drawing influence from surviving poetry fragments by the ancient Greek poet. It received an honorable mention in 2020 for the Finnish Composer's Copyright Society's Teosto Prize and was nominated for Finnish Jazz album of the Year. She also co-founded the jazz duo Moon on Fire with bassist/vocalist Helen Svoboda. During a temporary break in the quarantines imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Savolainen joined composer and multi-instrumentalist Mikko Sarvanne's Mikko Sarvanne Garden. Their sound joined contemporary vocal music, Nordic jazz, and sound art. The band comprised three vocalists, cello, double bass, percussion and electronics. Further, Savolainen toured with Signe and Selma Juudit Alessandr. In 2021 she produced Lastenkerääjä, the debut long-player by Finnish indie acid folk duo Akkajee, and she sang on Garden 0.5, the acclaimed inaugural digital release by Mikko Sarvanne Garden. That same year, Signe commenced its "Onomatopoesia Trilogy" with the Phonemes EP. The following year Heräämisen Valkea Myrsky, the second long-player from Mikko Sarvanne Garden, appeared on Eclipse Music, as did Morphemes, the second entry in Signe's trilogy. Savolainen wrote choir arrangements for indie duo Karina, and composed and arranged for UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra. She also formed a sextet composed entirely of first-call Finnish jazz musicians including clarinetist Max Zenger, trumpeter Tomi Nikku, pianist Toomas Keski-Säntti, double bassist Eero Tikkanen, and Okko Saastamoinen on drums. She signed to Michael Janisch's Whirlwind Recordings label in the spring of 2021, then spent three days in August with the band and co-producer/recording engineer Joonas Saikkonen cutting Horror Vacui, her debut solo album. The set included eight original compositions written specifically for this group, as well as covers of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and Kurt Weill's/Ogden Nash's "Speak Low." Horror Vacui was released in May 2023.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo

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