Although mainly known as a drummer and a percussionist, Simo Laihonen also frequently expresses himself on flutes. Born in 1982 to Hämeenlinna and at first inspired by heavy rock skinsmen like John Bonham, he began taking drum lessons at the age of nine in Muurame, near the city of Jyväskylä.

In his early twenties, as Laihonen was already gravitating towards a freer approach and more specifically, the sound and style of Edward Vesala, the budding musician took part in a summer camp arranged by members of the Sound & Fury team at the late great drummer/composer’s residence and studio in Yläne in South Western Finland.

Tutored and encouraged by the likes of pianist/harpist Iro Haarla, saxophonist Jorma Tapio, bassist Ulf Krokfors, and most notably, drummer Tom Nekljudow, Simo’s beliefs became inured and he was ready to commence chasing his destiny as a jazz professional. In retrospect it seems clear how strong the Yläne experience must have been: Laihonen is nowadays regarded as one of the most original and important torch bearers of the Vesala idiom.

A decisive moment came in 2004 as the man moved to the city of Tampere and soon took his place among local like-minded artists such as composer/multi-instrumentalist Kusti Vuorinen and drummer Janne Tuomi. The rite of passage was smooth. In just a couple of years, Laihonen made himself a name as a multifaceted musician and an able arranger of concerts and events. His musical endeavours also span the fields of theater, dance and performance art.

Among the many friends made in the Northern Tavastia scene, the most important relationship was struck with saxophonist Sami Sippola and bassist Ville Rauhala, for it was with them Simo Laihonen went on to found the inimitable free jazz team Black Motor in January 2005.

In early 2012, as reedsman Jorma Tapio began reanimating his dormant group Kaski, Laihonen was recruited to man the skins. A year later, the Black Motor quota in the ranks grew as Rauhala replaced Tero Siitonen as the trio’s bassist.

Spring 2013 brought along excellent news for Simo Laihonen: Another important personal milestone was reached by accepting the invitation to join the legendary Sound & Fury as their drummer. An apt closing of one quite self-evident circle. In the Summer, Simo relocated temporarily to New York City to hone his skills with master drummers Andrew Cyrille and Milford Graves.

Work with Jorma Tapio continued in early 2015 on two projects: Kaski resumed recording their debut album and Sound & Fury arranged the Bread for Soul concert in Helsinki to commemorate the passing of Edward Vesala in late 1999. In April, Simo Laihonen arranged another trip to NYC to take private lessons from Graves with whom he last studied in January 2014.

Petri Silas, August 2015

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