Lonna is a small island near Suomenlinna but capable of hosting some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz. Helsinki-based We Jazz organization created one of the highlights of the Finnish festival summer when they arranged Odysseus between July 22 and 24.

American bandleader and jazz drummer Makaya McCraven was happy to take a moment just before the gig of Greetings From Chicago to pose for a portrait for Finland Today on July 23, 2022, on the island of Lonna in Helsinki. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY / Click to view the gallery

HELSINKI—The jazzy groove was intense and hot. American drummer Makaya McCraven’s syncopated kick-drum beats inspired fellow American trumpeter Marquis Hill to put down the horn and grab small colorful percussion instruments reminiscent of castanets. He produced rhythmic accents to the gut-bucket jazz-funk.

Soon Hill picked up his trumpet and started soloing, and Finnish trumpeter Jukka Eskola joined the action. The other drummer, Finnish Jaska Lukkarinen, hammered a complimentary downbeat that was supported by American Junius Paul’s electric bass. Another American Matt Gold jammed with his electric guitar, and Finnish saxophonist Jussi Kannaste spiced the rump-rolling groove with low notes.

This unknown song—based on stone-cold improvising that fed on the enthusiasm and talent of the respective players across the continents—created a musical Pangaea unlike anything heard before on the southern coast of Finland.

Lonna, the island opposite of Suomenlinna that used to store sea mines, and now hosting Odysseus, one of the jazziest festivals in years, paid homage to the title derived from the ventures of the hero of ancient Greece: a human adventure.

This adventure on Saturday night, a performance titled Greetings From Chicago, quickened the pulse, delivered goosebumps, brought tears of joy and a wider smile on your face than featured on the cookie from Hanko!

This was the second year the Odysseus was arranged by We Jazz—a festival organization, a record label, a jazz record store, and also a collective of DJs—on the island of Lonna, just a ten-minute trip away by boat from the corner of Market Square.

Lonna is a former military island that has been open to the public since 2014. Its history extends to the 18th century when it was uninhabited. Hundred years later it served as the “negotiation island” when Finland then under Swedish rule negotiated the surrender of Viapori (Suomenlinna fortress island) during the Finnish War.

Later and until the beginning of the 2000s, the island was used by the Finnish Defence Forces and had among other things been a storage place for explosives.

At present, the island hosts a summer restaurant, event space and a public sauna, and on that warm sunny weekend, Lonna was the perfect place for the Odysseus festival that hopefully will delight us again next year.

Lonna - Just Ten Minutes Away From the Market Square

The island of Lonna belongs to the Suomenlinna district. It has a colorful history of serving the military, but today it serves as an oasis for visitors seeking a time-out. It’s only 150 meters long and home to many archipelago birds. One can even find dyer’s woad, the source of blue color in the cloaks of Vikings, in full bloom on the island in June. Delicious waffles and other delicacies, and the public sauna wait for the visitor, too.

(Photograph: Sini Merikallio / Public domain)