Kaisa's Machine

Bassist Kaisa Mäensivu formed her ensemble Kaisa’s Machine in 2015 and made her debut with the group in 2017 on the tight-knit, imaginative In the Key of K. In the midst of this, in 2016, she moved from her native Finland to New York, and thus began a process of artistic growth and transformation. She earned her master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music, studying with the likes of Dave Liebman and Ron Carter. And though she brought new players into her orbit, she kept the Kaisa’s Machine name, landing on Dave Douglas’ prestigious Greenleaf Music label for the follow-up release Taking Shape, her first album as a New Yorker.

The combined piano/guitar chemistry is a consistent feature throughout Taking Shape, as guitarist Max Light and pianist Eden Ladin seamlessly tackle Mäensivu’s soaring melodies and intricate ensemble parts. Light, first runner-up in the 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition, plays with clarity and fire throughout — his solo on “Better Intentions” is especially intense. Ladin’s unaccompanied piano on the interlude “III” is resplendent, and he keeps that inspiration flowing for his solos on “Shadow Mind” and “Sizzler”.

Saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, a leader in his own right with sideman credits including Gregory Porter and Esperanza Spalding, brings bracing solo chops and tremendous richness of tone to the five tracks on which he appears. His solo on the brisk “Floating Light” and ethereal echo effects on the slow, stretched out funk of “Aurora Unbound” are key highlights. Sasha Berliner, the poll-winning vibraphonist, with two acclaimed releases to her credit, fills out the dense and dramatic “Dream Machine” and is heard to great effect as the sole chordal instrument (no piano) on the fast odd-meter piece “Gravity”.

All through Taking Shape there’s a sense of story, a sonic richness and surprise. With Kaisa’s Machine, Mäensivu has found the ideal platform to realize her vision. The music aims to be relatable in its pureness — sometimes bouncy and groovy, celebrating with you, other times making you ponder all the mysteries and tragedies of life on our planet.

Taking Shape was released on July 7, 2023.

Kaisa Mäensivu

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 Kaisa’s style and strengthened her technique; at the same time, Kaisa holds dear her connection to Europe. 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, where she learned from professors such as Dave Liebman and a personal hero, Ron Carter.

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. 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 splits her time between New York and Helsinki when she’s not on tour.

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Website: kaisamaensivu.com
Facebook: Kaisa Mäensivu
Instagram: @kaisazz