Humbled to be in the presence of such a talented young man and not only is he talented, his unassuming manner is without even a smattering of false modesty. He gives himself credit where it’s due and leaves the rest up to you to figure out.
And credit is due! The list of artists he’s performed with reach way beyond your arm. I ask him who stood out most.
“Hard question but I have to say it’s probably Kenny Wheeler, renowned trumpeter, Canadian born but lived most of his life in the UK. I sent a demo to him and he called me back. Never forget the day. I was on my snowboard when the call came through. The conversation went something like this,
“Hi Jan, I’ve listened to your sound and I’d like to work with you but it’s gonna cost you.”
“How many digits are we talking?” (I blocked my ears while the answer came.)
“Sure no problem!”
The album ‘Answer’ was born.
Me: “How do you work? Do you give the musicians a score to follow?”
Jan: “Not really. If somebody gives me a score, I will play the notes on my bass but I always know that these notes were not written for a bass player. So I change it to suit the situation. I expect my fellow musicians to do the same.”
Me: “Playing and composing is not all you do. You’re also involved in production. What is your approach to that?”
Jan: “Networking. I talk to people all over the world, bring them to Finland and Sweden to play with people from here, they get to know each other, form working relationships and some are still working together after 10 years. I get a kick out of stories like that. Creating opportunities for everyone.”
Me: “Last year you were instrumental in bringing about a unique project. Can you tell me more?”
Jan: “Yes, I have done it for two years now. I brought together a group of amazing music artists and we travelled throughout Finland playing in various cities. We arranged a national singing contest combined with the tour. The contestants came from the local populations and they got to perform with us as part of the show. They of course brought their friends along to come and listen and we had an instant audience. The bands worked as juries, and our criteria for judging this was: If you’d have a gig tomorrow who would you bring? Once that was established, we knew who would make it to the finals in Helsinki.”
Me: “Great idea and I really congratulate you on this. Are you planning to do this elsewhere?”
Jan: “Absolutely. I’ve got a plan in mind for the USA and have started moving that project further, registered and all.”
Me: “Every year you arrange for bands to play at Carusel, here in Helsinki. Any big names amongst those besides the crème de la crème of Finland?”
Jan: “Sure. Every Wednesday during the summer months there’s jazz, blues, funk and beyond from 8 pm for an hour. We’ve had people like Jeanette Olsson whose sung with greats like Cher, Santana, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, the list goes on.”
Me: “What’s next?”
Jan: “Another album, this time with vocals, networking, finding A+ level musicians who are humble, who resonate with each other when their worlds’ collide and most of all, touching the hearts of listeners.”
I felt like I was walking on air when I left the bar where we had met. I got it. I knew why some of the best of the best would want to get to know him better and strum along to his tune. He, in his gentle, humble way, is the spiritual connection that makes his projects different from any other.
Kenny Wheeler, jazz trumpeter
Jan Simons on Linkedin
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