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 ...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 ...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 ...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 ...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 ...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 ...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 ...read more
Iro Haarla may not be particularly well-known, but the Finnish pianist/harpist's influence has been felt by anyone familiar with the work of her late husband, drummer Edward Vesala. According to saxophonist Trygve Seim--who not only played with Vesala towards the end of his life, but is also part of Haarla's quintet on her ECM debut, Northbound--Haarla was an uncredited co-composer on many of Vesala's compositions.
If one compares Satu (ECM, 1977) with Lumi (ECM, 1987), Vesala's first collaboration with Haarla, ...read more