How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
German record label ACT Music is rapidly cornering the market in stylish solo piano albums. With Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala's Lost Heroes, it adds another distinctive and glorious recording to its collection, alongside Gwilym Simcock
's A Tribute To Fabrizio De André (2010), among others.
Rantala has been a jazz musician for many years, most famously with Trio Töykeät, a superbly skillful and inventive band which existed for almost 20 years until it split in 2006. He is also a popular presenter on Finnish TV. This is his first solo album and, like Rea's CD, Rantala's Lost Heroes is a tributein this case, to ten of Rantala's musical role models, from Jean Sibelius to Art Tatum
, who died in late 2008. It's one of the disc's most graceful and lyrical tunes; Rantala's sadness almost palpable, particularly in the middle section, when his playing becomes more strident and powerful. "Tears for Esbjörn" is equally beautiful: played with economy and space its simple, delicate melody is achingly lovely.
Other tunes display Rantala's more playful side, a sense of humor that translates readily into musical ideas. "Can't Get Up" is dedicated to Jaco Pastorius
, a player who "puts a smile in my face," is the angular, jagged, "Thinking of Misty," filled with melodic twists and turns as well as an insistent tick-tock rhythm. "Donna Lee" is another playful performance, Rantala's fingers skipping across the keys as he mixes stride and bebop phrasings.
It's difficult to praise Lost Heroes too highly. Rantala's international profile may not be as high as other jazz pianists, but he is a hugely talented artist, with a powerfully emotional approach to his playing and a good-natured sensibility that some better-known players could do well to emulate. Rantala's heroes may be lost, but they still resonate in the hearts and minds of many people. Lost Heroes is a superb tribute; a giant of an album.
Track Listing: Pekka Pohjola; Waltz for Bill; Can't Get Up; Tears for Esbjörn; Thinking of Misty; Jean and Aino; Donna Lee; One More Waltz for Michel Petrucciani; Bluesette; Intermezzo.