Teemu Viinikainen is one of Finland’s best-known and most respected jazz guitarists. In his playing, expressive power, swing and virtuosity are important elements, but the strongest feeling, sensitivity and beautiful sound of the guitar come to the forefront when listening to him.
He started playing at the age of 7 and his first appearances took place at the age of 12. He later applied to study at the Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory and then at the Sibelius Academy’s jazz department, where he graduated with a master’s degree in music in 2005. Viinikainen has studied guitar under renowned teachers such as Pat Metheny and Wayne Kranzt. Since those years, he has been left with a spark to pass on the skills he has learned. He has been teaching guitar playing and improvisation at the Sibelius Academy’s jazz department since 2002. In addition, he has published two books on playing the jazz guitar, and with these he has become a sought-after lecturer all over Finland.
Founded in 2001, the renowned U-Street All Stars was Viinikainen’s first major jazz band, in whose ranks he began to gain visibility. This band became very popular in Finland and won the international jazz competition of the Getxo Jazz Festival in 2001. The band received other accolades, such as the Pori Jazz Artist of the Year award and the Criticism Incentives award from the Finnish Critics’ Association. Subsequent personal recognitions include the Sony Jazz Prize and the Jazz Federation’s Yrjö Prize.
Perhaps his greatest merit for Viinikainen is his demand as a skilled credit guitarist for several top bands, and his most important and long-term partner has been saxophonist Jukka Perko with his numerous different bands. Perkko’s Avara ensemble, with guitarist Jarmo Saari as the third member, has released several recordings and together they have performed not only in Finland but also in Europe and Australia. Viinikainen has also performed successfully with top international names such as Joe Levano, Vince Mendoza, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Tim Hagans and Jeff Tain Watts. He has performed as a soloist with most domestic symphony orchestras and has collaborated with classical musicians in smaller ensembles as well.
Viinikainen has so far had three ensembles of his own. The first own album ‘Tales of Robert Dickson’ was released in 2005 under the KSJAZZ label with renowned trumpet player Tim Hagans and bassist Timo Hirvonen and drummer Jussi Lehtonen as playing partners. Next discs ‘Now!’ (Prophone, 2011) and ‘Hit It’ (Prophone, 2014) were expeditions to the world of traditional acoustic guitar theater, played by bassist Ville Herrala and drummer Mika Kallio. Viinikaista is currently employed by his newest trio Teemu Viinikainen III together with keyboardist Mikael Myrskog and drummer Joonas Riipa. The band released their debut album ‘Return of Robert Dickson’ in the fall of 2017 and was selected as an Emma nominee in the Jazz Album of the Year category. Viinikainen is currently working on the first solo guitar album, which will be released in 2019.
”I have followed the career of Teemu Viinikainen since the early 2000’s and his days with a very accomplished jazz group called the U-Street All Stars. I immediately sensed great potential in his imaginative approach to improvisation, something he has ful ﬁ lled in the intervening years to become one of Europe’s ﬁ Nest Guitarists on the contemporary jazz scene. ”
-Stuart Nicholson, Professor, author, journalist & critic
“Teemu Viinikainen’s tone and groove alone establishes him as one of the Heavies, but combine that with his unique compositional concept and lines and you are witnessing one of the truly baddest improvising guitar players from Scandinavia and beyond !!”
-Jonathan Kreisberg, jazz guitar Virtuoso!