Pori Jazz Festival: Pori, Finland, July 19-21, 2012
To round off the night high octane energy was available from the hands of "Finland's freest jazz unit" and hard-working trio, Black Motor. Based in the old industrial city of Tampere, Black Motor have worked hard to get established in the country as a versatile and exciting high-powered jazz unit where each member has an equal contribution, although it is the earthy tenor sax of Sami Sippola that casts most influence over the mechanism. Blowing hard in a style compared to Sonny Rollins, as well as to both John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, Sippola's writing forms the majority of the band's pieces. However, with five year's experience under their collective belt, both bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer and sometime flautist Simo Laihonen deserved equal applause. In fact, all three members' solos were so well-woven into the structure of their pieces that applauding them individually seemed scarcely appropriate, detracting from the synthesis of their supremely tight performance. Sippola's return to his old home town was a triumph of professional patience, having waited 11 years since his previous appearance, but was also proof of the whole band's commitment to its game, and its achievement now on an international stage.
The final evening at the uLTRA mUSIC program was another victim of oversubscription. On the bill for this final evening of "Ultra Rock Pop Brass Night" was another selection of Finnish and European bands, all capable of filling the 120 seat space on their own. First was French ensemble Journal Intime, playing brass trio interpretations of the music of Jimi Hendrix. Led by two members of France's incorrigible musical miscreants from La Campagnie des Musiques à l'OuieFred Gastard on saxophones and Matthias Mahler on tromboneplaying, this night, with trumpeter Laurent Bardiaux added their inspired interpretations of Hendrix's work, particularly featured on their recent album Lips on Fire (Label Ouie, 2011). Among the highlights was "All Along the Watchtower," which started like a tableau, with the trumpet and trombone out front facing one another and creating the kind of harmonics Hendrix produced with his mastery of electronic effects.
By way of contrast to these derivative acts was a band whose originality owes more than much to its Swedish-born vocalist and chief composer Anni Elif Egecioglu. Since winning the Finnish competition for the Young Nordic Jazz Comets in 2008, the group has performed in Scandinavia and Turkey to appreciative young audiences, playing what they call "jazzpop with punk attitude." Egecioglu leads most songs, nowadays sung in English, and primarily comprising rather introspective, sometimes contemplative and at other declamatory poetry. The music also ranges from intimate to explosive, with Pauli Lyytien's saxophone leading the way along with Tatu Rönkkö's solid drums and percussion. With the mix right, and Egecioglu or Lyytinen joining in on a small glockenspiel, this trio whipped up a frenzy of passion, which the singer was liable to then drop back to the audience with a twist of a lyric and a whoop of her dazzling mezzo-soprano voice.
The final band of the evening repeated the style of Gastard and company but from a Swedish angle. Inspired by rediscovering some favorite old vinyls, the late pianist Esbjörn Svensson's former colleague and drummer Peter Danemo established a band of five horns known as LED, offering a a reinterpretation of these rock standards: a set of music by Led Zeppelin. Since so much of the original is engrained in current musical memories, the mix of experimentalism and contemporary tradition felt very familiar and at the same time intriguing. Two saxophones, a trumpet, trombone and tuba gave the classic tunes an element of interplay and abandon of which guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant would be proud.
The three evening program of uLTRA mUSIC finished, in fact, in the early morning of the final day of the Pori Festival, when all three final acts squeezed onto the stage for a final 12-musician tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Under the compositional influence of Fred Gastard, the gathering of musicians from five European countries played a long and brass-driven interpretation of Hendix's "1983." A Mermaid I should turn to be." The cloudy early morning dawn awaited the listeners, whose minds had been taken on a typically dazzling cosmic voyage to finish the year's exploration of music from the other side of the sky.