On Kolibri, Finnish pianist Iro Haarla brings together four mainstays of the country's improvised music scene, along with rising trumpet star Verneri Pohjola, in an outfit which sits mid way between a small group and a big band in terms of its capabilities. It's an accomplished unit. All six were part of the TUMO agglomeration which partnered trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith on Occupy The World (TUM Records, 2013), while four of the older generation were part of celebrated drummer Edward Vesala's Sound and Fury band in the 1980s. Haarla herself also co-wrote or arranged for the drummer's larger projects up ...read more
Finnish Pianist-composer Iro Haarla's compositions for her sextet emphasize her aim to reach a different, larger sound than the sound of her Finnish-Norwegian quintet (Northbound and Vespers, both on ECM, 2006 and 2011). This sextet is comprised of top Finnish musicians who collaborated closely with her in the past and began to work as the sextet in 2009. Its three-horn front line sound, as captured on Kolibri (the Finnish word for hummingbird), enables Haarla to use complex arrangements, rhythmic diversity and harmonic interplay that is close to a big band. But the musicians themselves, all of them ...read more
Finnish pianist Iro Haarla has expanded her customary quintet approach--trumpet, saxophone and rhythm section--with the addition of a third horn, Jari Hongisto's trombone, on Kolibri. The sextet is composed of some of Finland's most dynamic improvisors, and Haarla has given these vibrant artists the space to move the music in their own individual directions within the framework she has laid down.From the first notes of the opener, Nightjar," the music--spacious, minimalist in Haarlas' piano part, and initially featuring Kari Heinila's haunting tenor saxophone--creates a dream-like soundscape. Drummer Markku Ounaskari provides complex textures outside of the mode of timekeeping, ...read more
It's been six years since Iro Haarla released Northbound (ECM)--while not her actual debut as a leader, certainly her first with international exposure--an album of remarkable beauty that cemented the Finnish pianist/harpist/composer's position as the silent voice behind the music of her late husband, drummer Edward Vesala. There's no denying the import of Vesala's work for ECM, beginning with 1976's Nan Madol--truly a momentous album that spoke, in cinematic terms, of the landscape and culture of Finland--but, equally, a fundamental shift occurred, with the arrival of Haarla on 1987's Sound and Fury, that spoke to the impact that the young, ...read more
The Iro Haarla Quintet at Scandinavia House, NYCScandinavia HouseNew York City, New YorkJune 16, 2008 There were not one but two reasons to be excited about attending this concert at Scandinavia House on this night. Pianist/harpist/composer Iro Haarla had never before played in New York City, so this was a first for her as well as her admirers. The second was that the music played was entirely from her debut album on ECM, Northbound (2005), but with only two of the five players on the recording. Aside from Haarla and her ...read more
Beauty can mean many different things, but in my view of music, the concept centers around euphony, construction and the listener's emotional response. Consonant intervals, melodic lines that have internal logic, chord progressions that create and release tension, and timbres that blend together all work toward the beautiful. Add to this the mental imagery that some music can engender and you have the possibility of a totally engulfing experience. Northbound can easily be placed among the most overtly beautiful releases in the ECM catalogue, including Leosia, Serenity, Amaryllis, Nothing Ever Was, Anyway and Rosslyn, to name a ...read more
During the 1980s and '90s, Iro Haarla was content to keep away from the limelight and act as the generally unacknowledged inner architect of the music of her husband, drummer Edward Vesala, and his Sound & Fury group. Haarla met Vesala shortly after leaving Helsinki's Sibelius Academy in 1978, and until his death in 1999 she channeled her own musical talents into bringing shape and structure to her husband's brilliant but largely intuitive ideas.
Haarla made telling performance contributions to four Sound & Fury ECM albums--Ode To The Death Of Jazz, Invisible Storm, Nordic Gallery, and the band's masterpiece, Lumi--and ...read more