“The rhythm and the groove; that's always felt natural to me.”
Originally from Finland, Kaisa Mäensivu is a bass player living in New York City.
She is the founder of the quartet, Kaisa's Machine, and has played internationally,
leading her band at Ronnie Scott’s in London, Smalls Jazz Club in New York and
the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland.
The contemporary scene in New York has shaped her style and strengthened her
technique. Composing for Kaisa's Machine is her chance to channel those
influences and explore the groove aesthetic she is so drawn to. At the same time
Kaisa holds dear her connection to Europe and she stays close to her musician
Growing up in Finland, there was always a piano in Kaisa's home and she recalls
it was her first instrument, “I would always climb up to the piano and play to
entertain myself.” She started lessons early, aged six, but it was seeing a woman
play double bass on television that set things in motion, “It looked so impressive”,
and it chimed deeply with the connection she has to rhythm.
Studying jazz at the prestigious Sibelius Academy in Helsinki heralded a career as
a musician, along with graduating from the Manhattan School of Music in 2017,
a place she had dreamed of studying at. It was there she had the chance to learn
from professors such as Dave Liebman and a personal hero, Ron Carter. “Hearing
Ron Carter on the Miles Davis Quintet live recordings was a key influence.
What really blew me away were his note choices, just how creatively he builds
the bass lines and takes risks that lead the music to new places.”
Kaisa has had to take risks herself; dropping the piano for upright bass, leaving her homeland of Finland for America, and jumping in on jam sessions – always a test of nerve. “When I just moved to New York I went to this club uptown called Smoke Jazz Club. The feeling of walking into a random club on a weeknight and hearing musicians I didn't know of, and them sounding that amazing - I was blown away.” That same night the club opened up for a jam and Kaisa jumped in, “I was so nervous, but I think it went pretty well because I got my first gig in New York from that session.” Some might have felt overawed but Kaisa lifted herself to meet the challenge, “Yeah, that's what New York does,” she observes.
It is that metal that's helped her musicianship to blossom and Kaisa has won several awards including first prize at the International Riga Jazz Stage contest for bass players in 2018 and the ’Rising Star’ award at the Pori Jazz Festival.
Kaisa now splits her time between New York and Helsinki when she’s not on tour somewhere else in the world. “I've been nomading pretty hard, but I've enjoyed seeing a lot more of the US and of Europe too. If I go to a place and I don't know anyone there I find a jazz club and if you can sit in and play with the local musicians you immediately have friends, you feel connected. I really love that about jazz.”
SAM DILLON QUARTET
Dec 3rd, The Canary Club
Dec 8th, Flushing Town Hall
Dec 9th, Cafe Bohemia
Dec 16-18th, The Strand Theater
Dec 21st, St. Mazie
JOE PERI TRIO
Dec 29th, The Django
KAISA MÄENSIVU QUARTET
Jan 1st, Kota Alliance NYC