Suonsaari, Klaus (Henrikki), drummer, composer; b. Helsinki, Finland, 7 November 1959. His father is Heikki Suonsaari (b. 1934), who sang in choir and loves jazz. His mother, Sirkka Suonsaari (b. 1930), played piano, and also loves jazz. His sister, Marita Kaasalainen (b. 1954), is a classical pianist and church organist.
Suonsaari eventually crossed the Atlantic to first study, and then become an active contributor to the music as a sideman and, now, as a leader-composer-arranger. Klaus began classical piano lessons at age 6, switching to his main instrument at 14. "There was always a lot of musk at home", he remembers. "My parents had Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald records and I learned a lot of standards by listening to them". In the summer of 1974, he attended the Helsinki Pop/Jazz Conservatory summer program and received his first formal lessons. He was also exposed to earlier drum masters such as Baby Dodds and Big Sid Catlett. "The summer program was a great inspiration to me", relates Klaus. "I started checking out Kenny Clarke, Papa Jo Jones, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones and Art Blakey in order to learn my instrument and tradition". Today he still includes these artists as main influences.
In the fall of 1974 Suonsaari began studies in classical percussion at Lahti Conservatory and later at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York (1976-77). He found studying tympani extremely beneficial for developing touch and sound on the drum set. At age 16, he found himself working with a quintet called Blue Train, and gained a lot of solid playing experience with this group at the Pori International Jazz Festival and touring Finland. After graduating from high school in 1979, Suonsaari enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Here he studied privately with Joe Hunt and Alan Dawson, and immersed himself in the school's arranging and composing program. His major was arranging and his minor was in performance. He attended from 1980-1984 and graduated with a B.A. Cum Laude (Dean's list). Suonsaari, who has written music since 1982, likes to write for different size groups from small combos to symphony orchestras. In 1984, in memory of pianist Bill Evans, Klaus wrote "Suite for Bill", for 27-piece orchestra featuring Niels Lan Doky. Klaus names Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tom Harrell as his favorite composers.
He has toured the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, England and Scotland. Performances in these countries have included numerous radio and television appearances and major jazz festivals such as Montreux, Copenhagen, Pori, Montreux/Detroit, Lugano, Greenwich Village Jazz Festival, as well as some of the top jazz clubs in the world: Sweet Basil, Blue Note, Village Vanguard, Birdland, Village Gate and the Montmartre. Klaus has numerous recordings to his credit and the list of musicians he has played with includes Bob Berg, Horace Parlan, Joe Lovano, Slide Hampton, Jerry Bergonzi, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Junior Cook, Tom Harrell, Ray Drummond and Muhal Richard Abrams. He's privately studied with Jeff Hamilton (Brushes, Big Band, 1992-1993), Edgar David Grana (Composition, 1990-), Sam Ulano (Technique, 1990-1994), Billy Higgins (Drums, 1990-), Adam Nussbaum (Drums, Comping, 1989-1990), Kenny Washington (Drums, 1988-1989), Ed Saindon (Vibes, 1981-1982), Alan Dawson (Drums, 1981-1982), Joe Hunt (Drums, 1980-1981), Dean Anderson (Mallets, Percussion, 1977-1981), Tim Ferchen (Mallets, Percussion, 1977-1980), Jorma Alanne (Mallets, Tympani, 1977-1980), Ruth Cahn (Mallets, Tympani, 1976-1977), and Ed Thigpen (Brushes, 1991).
His teaching experience includes Helsinki Pop/Jazz Conservatory (Helsinki, Finland 1990-Current), Sibelius Academy (1992 -Current), East Harlem Music School (New York, Ny 1985-1988), Private Teaching (New York, Ny 1985 - Current), Longy School Of Music (Boston, Ma 1984-1985), Helsinki Pop/Jazz Summer Program (Helsinki, Finland 1977-Current), and Jyrankola People's College (Heinola, Finland 1977-1979). He speaks Finnish, French, German and Swedish.