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Live Reviews

Tampere Jazz Happening 2010: Days 3-4, November 6-7, 2010

By Published: November 9, 2010
Day 3: K-18

Albums can sometimes be so stale-dated that, by the time a group goes out on tour, it's already well into a new repertoire. Such was the case with K-18's opening performance at the intimate Telakka venue, on day three of Tampere Jazz Happening 2010. Led by guitarist Kalle Kalima, Some Kubricks of Blood (TUM, 2009) was actually recorded early in 2007, and so now, nearly four years later, rather than music inspired from a trip to an exhibition about the late film director Stanley Kubrick, K-18's Tampere show focused on new music for an album yet to be recorded, where the inspiration is another cinema icon, director David Lynch.

From left: Kalle Kalima, Teppo Hauta-aho, Veli Kujala Missing: Mikko Innanen

K-18's unconventional line-up—in addition to Kalima, featuring reed man Mikko Innanen, bassist Teppo Hauta-aho and accordionist Veli Kujala—was made even more unorthodox through Kujala's use of a custom-built, microtonal accordion. Kujala has, in fact, released a solo album of accordion music with his modified instrument, recorded in surround sound to fully exploit its sonic capabilities; here, performing Kalima's rigorous music, he demonstrated its unique potentials, creating expansive washes of dissonant sonics that, combined with Kalima's sometimes effects-laden electric guitar—and Innanen's apparent refusal to accept any limitations on the tonal possibilities of his alto and baritone saxophones—resulted in a group sound that ranged from open and jaggedly pointillist, to denser and more foreboding.

Innanen, who performed with his Innkvisitio group at the 2010 Ottawa International Jazz Festival earlier this year, proved himself as strong an ensemble player in a group more about complex composition than it was freewheeling improvisation. In addition to his two horns, Innanen had a table filled with odds and sods, ranging from metal pipes and maracas, to children's toys, plastic instruments, a set of walkie-talkies, and more. At one point, Kalima moved over to Innanen's part of the stage, where the saxophonist was rapidly shaking a small wooden toy, taking it over to allow Innanen to return that hand to his horn. It was an odd example of the kind of oblique instrumentation and ideation that defined the performance.

Kalima's scores do, however, leave room for extemporization, and a highlight of the set was an intense duet between Hauta-aho and Kujala, whose huge swoops of the accordion bellows were matched by his own dramatic, but completely natural, physicality as his hands moved around the accordion at near-light speed. The music drifted closer to contemporary classical composition, but, with Kalima's sometimes overdriven, delayed, reverse-attacked tone, approaching a rock stance by way of guitarists like Fred Frith
Fred Frith
Fred Frith
b.1949
guitar
and Derek Bailey
Derek Bailey
Derek Bailey
1932 - 2005
guitar
. Kalima also utilized preparations like a clothespin on his bottom strings at one point, and other extended approaches (like a metal slide and an eBow), to give his heavily detailed compositions an in-the-moment spontaneity. In a quick chat after the set, Kalima revealed that, while the compositions themselves are quite rigorous, his choice of sounds, through his array of effects pedals, is always spontaneous, making each performance distinct and unique.

The current tour is, in fact, intended to work on and road test the new material. Certainly more advanced in its combination of building blocks that include references to classical composers like Steve Reich
Steve Reich
Steve Reich
b.1936
composer/conductor
and John Cage
John Cage
John Cage
1912 - 1992
composer/conductor
, Kalima and his K-18 performance bode well for the record, as it represents a clear growth over the less rigid and more improv-heavy Some Kubricks of Blood.

Day 3: Plop

As the stage at Telakka was cleared for the arrival of Plop, Innanen's rig remained. These days, artistic survival means involvement in a number of groups, and in addition to K-18 and his own Innkvisitio, Innanen is one-third of the collective Plop, which also demonstrates the depth of cross-pollination in the Finnish scene. Plop drummer Joonas Riipa—certainly the most exciting young drummer on the Finnish scene today—is also a member of Innkvisitio, while bassist Ville Herrala was heard the previous evening in drummer André Sumelius' terrific quartet. Here, however, the modus operandi was as different as could be from any of these other groups.

Mikko Innanen

"Bebop + free bop + blip blop = PLOP," says the festival program, and it's as good a starting point as any for a group that brings together free-spirited improv without borders, tough arrangements that push everyone to their extremes, and no shortage of supreme silliness. Riipa, in particular, seemed like a man possessed, moving around his kit with a kind of loose-limbed frenzy that was unfailingly unfettered—in some cases doing everything wrong in order to make everything absolutely right. But in the midst of a kind of heavily-intended but light-spirited interplay that channeled, at times, the spirit of Dutch drummer Han Bennink
Han Bennink
Han Bennink
b.1942
drums
, Riipa also brought a pocket trumpet, plastic saxophone and slide whistle into the mix. Innanen used even more of his table of toys here than he did with K-18, interspersing these often found sounds with heavy blowing passages, where virtuosic technique was clear, but never the prime motivator. When it comes to advanced embouchure and extended techniques, Innanen has it all—but it's always in service of the music, with stunning flights of bebop mixed with harsh textures and popping percussives.

More than his appearance with Sumelius, Herrala—who looks to be barely out of his teens—was an equal partner in Plop, swinging hard with the kind of time/no changes swing that bassist Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
b.1937
bass, acoustic
made famous in his early work with saxophonist Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
, but equally capable of surprisingly powerful solo statements and lock-ins with Riipa that moved Plop's pulse around a variety of stylistic markers, without ever exactly landing in any of them. At one point in the set, Herrala and Riipa entered into a repeating structure where tempo kept shifting—slowing down and speeding up—with not exactly comfort, but certainly alacrity and surprising accuracy. Riipa was working, it appeared, especially hard to make the shifts, but it was all in the unfettered spirit of trying anything, hoping for the best, and invariably achieving it.

Joonas Riipa

Innanen has rapidly emerged as one of the country's most important young saxophonists; the same can be said for Riipa and, having seen Herrela in two very different contexts, he's clearly on his way as well. Together, as Plop, the trio is at the vanguard of a new kind of collective spontaneity founded on traditional tenets but rejecting most of them. And as tough as the music can be, the element of humor makes it accessible for a larger audience than would be expected; certainly the trio wowed the crowd at Telekka, who demanded an encore, and got one—well, sort of, as Riipa, on pocket trumpet, interacted briefly with Innanen, only to quickly dissolve into an ending that left the audience laughing...and, clearly, ready for more, the next time Plop comes to town.


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