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If there's any new ground left for piano trios to explore, none of today's jazz threesomes are finding it. But the familiar can always be a comforting place to come back to. And a player who excels on already oft-heard keyboard commentary is no less interesting to hear.
Such a player is twenty-something Finnish pianist Lenni-Kalle Taipale. Clearly trained in the classics (his flourishes display an intimate knowledge of Bach and Chopin), Taipale recalls the melodic insistence of Chick Corea mixed with the clearly patterned and well-articulated cadences of Ahmad Jamal.
Taipale's true gift is the way he combines such classical cadenzas with a catchy sort of modal jazz that borders on out-and-out funk, sort of like Jacques Loussier. His like-minded trio, together for three years at the time of this September 1998 recording, includes other fellow Fins in electric bassist Timo Tupparainen and drummer Sami Jarvinen.
The trio's debut is a mostly terrific collection of solid, mainstream piano jazz, despite it's nagging familiarity. Taipale is a player of storyteller qualities; bringing rather too-conventional, too-catchy music a passion, suspense, surprise and resolution that truly grasps attention.
Most of the group's songs dispense with over-heard standards and focus on unknown tunes by Taipale (in addition to a Finnish folk tune and several originals by group members). Highlights include the Jamal-like "Nothing to Hide," the second half of "First Peace," the Latin "Peppi" (a dancing Corea-like children's song), the showy lounge funk of "Kohkaus," and the Bob James-ish Calypso-disco of "Namibia-Diapam" (featuring Taipale on electric piano). The mood is nearly shattered by a new-agey (but pretty) "Invisible Beauty Of My Flower" and the strict march of "Taivas on Sininen Ja Valkoinen." But neither drags the set down completely either.
Nothing To Hide is nothing innovative. But neither is Blue Note's higher profile (and more Jarrett like) Prysm project. Both include worthy commentary delivered in familiar modes.
Songs:Nothing To Hide; First Peace; Sami-Imas; Haapari (wedding Couple); Peppi (Har Kommer Pippi Langstrump); Kohkaus; Namibia-Diapam; Like I Care; Fadin' Storm; Taivas on Sininen Ja Valkoinen (The Sky Is Blue And White); Invisible Beauty Of My Flower.
Players:Lenni-Kalle Taipale: piano, keyboards; Sami Jarvinen: drums, percussion; Timo Tuppurainen: electric bass, double bass; Visa-Pekka Mertanen: clavinet ("Namibia-Diapam"), keyboard programming ("Kohkaus," "Namibia-Diapam"), keyboard/loop/sequence programming (Invisible Beauty of My Flower"); Toppo Isopuro on "Namibia-Diapam".