aki rissanen pianist / composer

Aki Rissanen, b. 1980. Pianist, keyboardist, composer, improviser, band leader, educator


Pianist Aki Rissanen has been quickly rising among the few top forces of Finnish jazz and over the last years he has also made a name for himself in the international jazz scene, both as a leader and as a sideman. Although originally classically trained, he has always had a heart for improvised music and jazz.

In addition to his high merits in the Solo Piano Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival and La Defense competition in France, Rissanen has been best known for his works with saxophonist Dave Liebman on German Ozella Music and trumpeter Verneri Pohjola on British Edition Records and on ACT Music in Germany.

His trio’s recent, critically acclaimed album Amorandom on British Edition Records, with Antti Lötjönen on bass and Teppo Mäkynen on drums, is his most authoritative work to date. Influenced by electronic minimal music and Nordic lyricism, it demonstrates the group’s high energy and outstandingly proficient playing. Amorandom won the Finnish Grammy, the Emma Award for the Best Jazz Album of the Year 2016. Before this, he has released 8 albums as a leader or co-leader in UK, USA, France, Sweden and Finland.

Aki Rissanen studied classical piano at the Kuopio Conservatory, Finland (1990-2000); jazz music and education at the Helsinki Polytechnic School Stadia (2000-2002); jazz and improvised music at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Paris, France (2005-2006); took private lessons in New York, USA and Cologne, Germany (2005-2008) and studied jazz piano and composition at the Sibelius Academy Jazz Department in Finland (2002-2009), where he received a Master’s degree.

His teachers have included Jarmo Savolainen, Jukkis Uotila, Kirmo Lintinen, John Taylor, Jim Beard, Anders Jormin, Hervé Sellin, Markku Hyvärinen, Jouni Kuronen, Seppo Kantonen, Frank Carlberg, Pessi Levanto and Mikael Jakobsson. Rissanen has made extended stays in Paris, Berlin and New York and is currently based in Helsinki, Finland.

Besides his trio with Antti Lötjönen (bass) and Teppo Mäkynen (drums), he leads a quartet entitled Sininen Syksy featuring classical soprano Mari Palo, guitarist Teemu Viinikainen and drummer Joonas Riippa which performs the music of the Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja. He co-leads the trio entitled Aleatoric with Robin Verheyen (sax) and Markku Ounaskari (drums) and the quartet featuring the sax legend Dave Liebman. Other active groups include Verneri Pohjola- Aki Rissanen Duo, Verneri Pohjola Quartet, Jori Huhtala 3, Mikko Hassinen Elektro GT and Lauri Porra Flyover among others.

In addition, he has shared the stage with UMO Jazz Orchestra, The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Rick Margitza, Randy Brecker, Mats Gustafsson, Sten Sandell, Ingrid Jensen, Michael Gibbs, Barry Guy, Daniel Humair, Bill Watrous, Jukka Perko, Jukkis Uotila, Eero Koivistoinen and Ulf Krokfors among others. German composer Sid Hille wrote a piano concerto entitled Motion for Rissanen and he premiered the work in 2012 in Helsinki. He has performed in most of the European countries, USA, China and North Africa.

 Aki Rissanen is the one to watch, and it’s only now that the pianist’s own distinct identity is emerging. Rissanen is a musical storyteller, a jazz musician with something to say.”


Rissanen’s cleverly conceived and wonderfully executed international debut has the power to stop you in your tracks.” JAZZ JOURNAL, UK

Aki is a tremendously musical, passionate and soulful person and has a high energy level. He is one of the best young pianists I have heard in years.” DAVE LIEBMAN

Rissanen’s fine trio is a formidable force, with fresh musical intelligence to match flawless techniques.” THE GUARDIAN, UK

Prize winner 

– Emma Award, The Finnish Grammy for the Best Jazz Album of the Year 2016 (Amorandom on Edition Records) 2017

– Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition in Switzerland (2nd prize and Steinway prize) 2004

– La Defense Jazz Competition in France (Awards for the best soloist and repertoire) 2006

– Young Nordic Jazz Comets Competition in Finland. (Winner of the national final) 2003 & 2005

Film/ theatre/ audiovisual work 

– Adventures in Moominland, Exhibition, Southbank Centre, London, UK (original music and performance) 2017

– Commercial work for television with Cocoa Mediaproductions, Finland (Telia, RAY, Pirkka) 2016-17

– Amorandom visualised concert with visual artist Petri Ruikka (concept, original music and performance) 2012-16

– Amorandom, dir. Tuula Leinonen. Animation, YLE (original music and performance) 2012

– Mr. Vertigo, dir. Kristian Smeds. Play, Finnish National Theatre (original music and performance) 2010-12

– Helsinki 24h. Documentary, premiere at Viapori Jazz Festival (music direction, original music and performance) 2007

Selected discography

  • Songs for Solstice (Eclipse Music, Finland 2017 with Robin Verheyen and Markku Ounaskari)
  • Amorandom (Edition Records, UK 2016)
  • Plastic Island EP (Gateway Music, Denmark 2016 with Johanna Sulkunen and Joonas Leppänen)
  • Aki Rissanen / / Jussi Lehtonen Quartet with Dave Liebman (Ozella Music, Germany 2015)
  • Sturm (Ilma Records, Sweden 2015)
  • Verneri Pohjola: Bullhorn (Edition Records, UK 2015)
  • Aleatoric (Eclipse Music 2013, Finland with Robin Verheyen and Markku Ounaskari)
  • Verneri Pohjola with Aki Rissanen: Ancient History (ACT Music, Germany 2012)
  • Verneri Pohjola: Aurora (Texicalli, Finland 2009 / ACT Music, Germany 2011)
  • Beautiful Anxiety (KSJAZZ, USA 2009)
  • Semplice (Alba 2008, Finland with Robin Verheyen)
  • La Lumière noire (Ilma Records / Aeon, France 2007)