Producer, Musician, Composer – Jan Simons

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.

jazz musician Jan Simons
Jan Simons, bassist extraordinaire!

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

Jan Simons on Facebook

Jeanette Olsson

Hilma af Klint – artist, mystic, front runner from Stockholm, Sweden

The boys bragged of being the first to paint abstract art but while she was honing her skills on landscapes and portraiture, minutely depicting every detail of realism, she was exploring her higher conscious.

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Spring Landscape – Scene from the Bay of Lomma 1892

The ‘boys’ included the likes of Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, František Kupka and Piet Mondrian. But where was she at that time, the early 1900’s? Where was her art? Why don’t we know more about her? Smart lady. She knew and surmised that the public simply wouldn’t be ready for it and kept it all hidden in a loft somewhere in Stockholm only to be released at least 20 years after her death. It was the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm that took the plunge followed by highly successful showings in Berlin, Malaga and Louisiana.

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Now for the first time in Helsinki, we are able to marvel at her broad scope of styles ranging from minute realism through naivety to huge bold sweeping brush strokes to geometricality that is intense in its complete balance and accuracy.

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As Iris Müller-Westermann, curator of the Moderna Museet puts it, “She didn’t say she was the first, she was the best, that she did it. Her approach was different. She believed that she was merely an instrument of spiritual forces who worked through her. Her quest was to understand the world and her place in it.”

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Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction was on show at Kunsthalle from 16 August until 28 September 2014.

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