Teemu Takanen (b. 1984) is a Finnish jazz saxophonist and composer/arranger. He conducts Savonlinna Big Band and ESA Jazz Orchestra and works a freelance musician, mainly with his own band Takatonic. Takanen is strongly influential in eastern Finland, particularly in the province of South Savo, where he performs, teaches and gathers local jazz musicians together. As a result of this work, South Savo’s own jazz orchestra, ESA Jazz Orchestra, was founded in 2010.
Takanen started his music studies at Savonlinna Music Institute at the age of four, with the piano as his instrument. Later, when Takanen was ten years old, the piano was replaced by the drums, which he continued to play till the age of sixteen. Moving to secondary school also caused an upheaval in his choice of instruments: now it was the saxophone’s turn… and it turned out to be a road with no return! Encouraged by his father Rainer Takanen, Takanen started taking saxophone lessons alongside playing the drums at the age of thirteen. Father Takanen taught his son the basics, and in no time Teemu was playing melodies of his own right out of his head. He soon dropped the drums because he was totally captivated by saxophone playing. Lessons under the guidance of jazz musician Jussi Kannaste were of crucial importance in the development of Teemu’s career as a musician.
“I still remember the lesson when Jussi wanted to introduce alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley’s sound to me by playing the recording Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. There was this feeling in it that made an indelible impression on me. Jussi also arranged my first meeting with saxophonist Jukka Perko, which of course was like a lottery win for me at the time. Jukka gave me invaluable hints on playing, and of course meeting my idol was a huge experience, with an enormous effect on my motivation.”
In the spring of the year 2000 Takanen was enrolled to study at the youth department of the Sibelius Academy’s Jazz Department. While studying at Savonlinna Senior Secondary School of Art and Music from 2000 to 2003, Teemu went to music lessons in Helsinki every other week. He graduated from upper secondary school in the spring of 2003, and the next autumn he was able to start his Master of Music – studies at the Jazz Department of the Sibelius-Academy in Helsinki. He studied at the Jazz Department from 2000 to 2009, with Jukka Perko, Kari “Sonny” Heinilä, Jukkis Uotila, Jarmo Savolainen, Jarno Kukkonen, Jari Perkiömäki, Manuel Dunkel, Teppo Mäkynen, Seppo Kantonen, Pessi Levanto, Kari Ikonen, Jussi Lehtonen, Jussi Kannaste, Eero Koivistoinen, Johan Hörlen, Mark Bernstein, David Liebman, Mika Kallio and Joonatan Rautio as his teachers. He graduated as a Master of Music in December 2009, after which he moved back to Savonlinna, his town of birth.
Takanen has distinguished himself as an alto saxophonist in several highly appreciated international competitions for instrumentalists: for example, he won the first prize in the 3rd International Contest for Young Soloists in Fribourg, Switzerland in 2007, the shared second prize in the Jukka Perko – saxophone competition in 2001, and the third prize in the Monaco City Hall International Jazz Soloist Competition in Monaco in 2006. In addition, The Finnish Saxophone Society awarded Takanen with the Joosef Kaartinen – scholarship in 2005, and in 2006 he got the DIG-scholarship awarded by the Sibelius-Academy’s Jazz Department.
Takanen performs regularly with his own band, Takatonic. Besides that, he plays sporadically in different combos, such as Savonlinna Big Band, ESA Jazz Orchestra, UMO Jazz Orchestra and Dallapé. In the summer of 2010 Takanen released his debut album ”TAKATONIC!”.