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A Finnish Feast: Hundreds of Free Songs from Earth's Least Corrupt Country

By Published: September 11, 2005
The 12 lengthy MP3 songs at this site offer a commendable and diverse overview of Finland's progressive jazz scene by new and veteran musicians. The Ilmilekki Quartet, selected as Young Artist of the Year 2004 by Finland Festivals and one of the highlights at the 2005 Keitelejazz festival, squeezes a lot of intellectual modernism into their eight- minute piece, from a ballad/folk opening to Miles-style trumpet dashings to post-bop piano rumblings - then meshing it near the end. It isn't jaw-dropping, but represents an honest overview of the band's consistent high quality cohesiveness. Unlike some evolving fusion there's a purpose and it happens to make sense. There's one MP3 track for each of the 11 additional Tum Records releases at the site and, while not all appeal equally, nothing feels like a throwaway effort. "Penguin Benguine" is a quirky, squawking electric ensemble freeform rant led by keyboardist Iro Haarla and bassist Ulf Krokfors. "Into Fall" is a lower-key exchange of Asian/African workings between guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and drummer Lukas Ligeti. "Haloo - haloo!" is a loose acoustic exploration from a 1998 reunion project between pianist Eero Ojanen and bassist Teppo Hauta, who made their mark on Finland's progressive jazz scene during the 1960s and 70s. These aren't necessarily the best of the bunch - but one can probably take any given three of these freebies with similarly diverse and interesting results.

Erja Lyytinen
Three live tracks from the 2004 Pori Jazz Festival and other songs

"The Blues Lady Of Finland," who's from the small central Finland town of Kuopio, opened for Bonnie Raitt at the 2003 Puistoblues Festival and has drawn comparisons to the famed U.S. singer. The three songs here (a link to a fourth is broken) feature that modern country/blues element, and are a good showcase for Lyytinen's gritty vocals and slide guitar (the former being more accomplished and personable than the latter). "High G" features a somber tale shifting between understated and upbeat, "Long Ago" possesses an ascending quality and "Maybe" is a slower reflective blues with a long but not overly original guitar solo. The other four band members are solid, but nothing one won't hear in plenty of similar groups. Offering well-recorded live tracks is a definite plus since even common solos gets the extra energy frequently lacking in the more restrictive atmosphere of a studio. There's also four free songs performed with the band Dave's Special at and an alternate "Long Ago" at the 2004 SXSW Music Festival web site.

Pasi K. And Hurmos
Two songs and three live performance videos

The two short songs (use the "Ääninäytteitä" link) are Finnish folk, not jazz, but good examples of the genre and make it easy to picture them doing an afternoon park concert during Keitelejazz. But the videos (the "Videoita" link) are a better bet, both musically and because of the ability to watch a loose and informal group at work.

Video of "Aijo"

This female trio-led group is pop, not jazz, but since they were a featured Keitelejazz act and probably best appreciated by sight as well as sound this video is worth mentioning. It's a step above typical Euro pop thanks to some traditional folk instrumentation elements countering lyrics that get rather primitive and savage in tone at times (a plus). Better than most for a quick sample of the popular Finnish music scene.

Musti Laiton
Seven free albums, plus other songs and animated karaoke

I am not generally a fan of the huge wasteland of free electronic/experimental albums floating around the net because they tend to be giveaways for good reason. But this indie Helsinki band has a "what the heck is this" quality in a positive sense. Long moody ambiance, quick and humorous sonic battles, modern ethnic and more are jumbled in here. Some is more jarring than pleasing, so a pick-and-choose approach may be necessary. A nice touch is most of the albums are available by the song or in a .zip format, allowing surfers to audition a piece and then download the whole collection if it's to their liking. Also, while I don't recommend many videos, their 80MB animated "Karaoke" is a hip and humorous six-minute Star-Wars-Cantina-Meets-Akbar-And-Jeff diversion worth streaming once, if not necessarily downloading.

Pauliina May
Three songs by pianist/composer Heikki Sarmanto

Sarmanto, one of Finland's jazz pioneers, asked May to record some of his compositions in Spanish, backed by the Finnish Tapiola Sinfonietta ensemble, according to May's web site. These songs are of the melancholy showtune/folk variety, with May's low vocals coming in delicate and even. A decent listen for those into strings and Streisand - no sarcasm intended - but nothing that makes these compositions feel groundbreaking.

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