From the beginning of the millenium, Raoul Björkenheim has been improvising new music with many of the finest American and European musicians on the scene: Scorch Trio with Paal Nilssen-Love and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, a trio with Hamid Drake and William Parker, another trio with Bill Laswell and Morgan Ågren, and duos with Lukas Ligeti, to name a few. Having lived in New York from 2001, where he soaked up many new approaches to music, he returned to Finland in 2008.

Björkenheim formed eCsTaSy, an all-finnish quartet, in 2010, bringing two young talents, Pauli Lyytinen and Jori Huhtala, into the spotlight in a repertory of original compositions painting swirling polyrhythms with a free-tonal palette. Björkenheim’s accomplice from many previous projects, Markku Ounaskari, brings his own subtle mastery into the mix, thus combining the sensibilities of three generations. With influences ranging from Korean and African music to contemporary chamber music and free rock, eCsTaSy’s mission is to elevate its audiences with high energy and a dedication to adventurous sound. The quartet's first cd on Cuneiform was released in February 2014 to outstanding reviews, and the second, Out of the Blue, was released on October 16th, 2015. See the press release:

Björkenheim’s by now nearly legendary guitar playing is known for it’s searing lyricism and wide flexibility, documented on over 30 albums with bands such as Krakatau, Phantom City and Edward Vesala Sound & Fury. Several records for ECM brought him to the attention of the international community in the early 90’s, and since then he has performed and recorded with musicians like Toshinori Kondo, Anthony Braxton, Henry Kaiser and Mats Gustafsson.

Pauli Lyytinen is a musician and composer with an obsession for tone color and experimental techniques, creating a sensation with his fluency on the Bb family of saxophones, from bass to soprano. In music ranging from hardcore free to experimental pop, Lyytinen has been inventing new roles for his instruments in his groups Elifantree, Defekt, Kauhukakara, Minor DeLuxe and Equally Stupid, often limiting himself to the role of accompanist. In this quartet, Lyytinen gets a chance to spread his improvisatory wings.

Jori Huhtala brings a powerful presence to the band with his strong contrabass playing. Resonating with echoes of Miroslav Vitous and other past masters, Huhtala has been much in demand among the top Finnish musicians, and his current bands include Kvalda, Big Blue, Hanne Pulli Space Machine and Mighty Mighty Sextet. Björkenheim met Lyytinen and Huhtala during his teaching duties at the Sibelius Academy, and was inspired by their playing to create this quartet.

Markku Ounaskari is a veteran of some of the most memorable Finnish groups in the past two decades. He has been very busy recording for ECM, most recently releasing his first solo abum in 2010. Ounaskari has played with all the major Finnish jazz figures, and with international players including Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Tomasz Stanko and Marc Ducret. He and Björkenheim have played together for two decades, most recently in a quartet with Juhani Aaltonen.