Olli Hirvonen, a young Finn based in Brooklyn, New York, has just won the famous Socar Montreux Jazz Electric Guitar Competition. The jury was presided over by John McLaughlin, and was composed of Swiss blues musician Philipp Fankhauser, local journalist Pierre-Philippe Cadert, Claudio Cappellari, the co-Director of Zurich’s prominent music venue Moods, and guitarist and member of the Montreux Jazz Festival Board, Xavier Oberson. Camaraderie abounded as this guitar competition for the 50th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival unfolded at an extremely high level—to the point that, for the first time in the history of the jazz competitions at Montreux, the finale evolved into a powerful jam session that brought together all the competitors and several members of the jury for a closing musical ensemble.
Well-versed in every electric skillset, from jazz to rock to more experimental sounds, he has developed a unique style navigating between these genres. Hirvonen has degrees from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and the Manhattan School of Music. His young career can already boast of some impressive accolades, including Artist of the Year of the Pori Jazz Festival in 2011 and Performer of the Year 2014-2015 for the Finlandia Foundation. He has featured on numerous recordings and released his first album, Detachment, in April 2014.
Second and Third Prizes went, respectively, to 22-year-old English guitarist Rob Luft and Israel’s Tal Yahalom, also based in New York.
THE THREE TOP FINISHERS WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE THIRD MONTREUX JAZZ ACADEMY THIS FALL, FROM 18 TO 26 NOVEMBER 2016.