Peela, a  Helsinki-based jazz-funk collective, performing at Vanha 123 in Porvoo, Finland on April 1, 2022. Peela consists of Sami Leponiemi (saxophone), Maja Mannila (vocals, keyboards), Oliver Karttunen (bass), Johannes Granroth (guitar), Mikko Antila (percussion, keyboards) and Severi Sorjonen (drums). Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY / Click to view the gallery

PORVOO – Porvoo Jazz Festival is a deep-seated experience that offers a selection of some of the finest jazz in this country.

In early April, Finland Today was treated to a gig by a jazzy and funky collective—Peela—in an intimate setting at Vanha 123, a venue built in an old movie theater near the city center.

The Helsinki-based sextet consists of younger players that have indulged in the jazz realm with more passion than some of their older contemporary peers.

We were treated to silky vocals of Maja Mannila, who also played keys and sent the shoulder-to-shoulder audience to a trance with her skillful scatting.

Drummer Severi Sorjonen impressed with solos, rhythms and groove that stayed in the pocket.

We were very impressed with Sami Leponiemi’s relationship with the sax. Many times he just waited and smiled while listening to the other players doing their thing, and when it was his turn, he blew the roof off.

While sipping a Scottish blend whiskey from the counter behind us, and listening to the hypnotic grooves of Peela, we experienced one of the happiest moments of the beginning of the event season, after a long hiatus, now with no face masks and corona stress.

We were back. Just like in the good ol’ days.

For those who want to experience a similar thing, on Friday, the Porvoo Jazz Festival will return to a club-like setting at Hotel Runo, at the corner of Old Porvoo that is surrounded by cobblestones and old wooden houses that date back to the 18th century.

Jay Kortehisto, the bassoonist-singer with a career spanning three decades, will take over the evening with his trio.