Even though she is a relative newcomer on the Finnish jazz scene, Johanna Iivanainen (née Niemelä) has already made her mark – and then some. Iivanainen's first professional performances came in her late teens, and her very first touring ensemble was Khamos, which hailed from her Northern home town of Oulu.
The singer's first truly noteworthy ensemble was called Free Control. Led by guitarist Mikko Iivanainen, the team released two adventurous albums at the turn of the Millennium: 'Free Control' in 1998 and 'Free Control II' in 2001. Another important team of the time was Unit 6, which concentrated mainly on jazz standards, toured Finland in 1998 and released its debut album 'No. 1' in 2000.
Around that time Iivanainen also became recognized by a couple of local jazz veterans, most notably trumpeter/composer Otto Donner. He invited the singer to tour with his band Free For All, which then resulted in the live album 'Otto Donner Free For All' in 2000. Three years later came the disc which could even be called a minor breakthrough album: 'Suomalainen' by Johanna Iivanainen ja Eero Koivistoisen Yhtye, i.e Johanna Iivanainen and Eero Koivistoinen's Group. This vocal album consisted of an interesting choice of Finnish material from pop to poetry, and went on to garner a respectable amount of critical acclaim.
These accolades aside, Iivanainen has collaborated with the likes of the Perko-Pyysalo Poppoo, the UMO Jazz Orchestra and the Antti Sarpila Swing Band. Nowadays she not only records and performs with a number of different groups, but also teaches at the Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory. In addition to the more jazzier endeavours, Johanna Iivanainen can be found singing pop tunes or bossa nova evergreens in groups such as the Korpi Ensemble and 1N.
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