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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola, Dan Loomis, Kyle Struve: Trio Hour

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Mika Pohjola is a man of many talents. He runs the New York-based Blue Music Group--"the small label with big music." He has collaborated on albums of religious and traditional Finnish, Swedish music, given classical recitals, accompanied vocalists Jill Walsh and Johanna Grüssner and gigged with diverse jazz aggregations. It would be a shame if any of this got in the way of his achievement with this album, which presents him with a chance to stand up and be counted as one of the most gifted jazz pianists of his generation. Playing in the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola: Northern Sunrise

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With Northern Sunrise, pianist Mika Pohjola steps into the space between old and new worlds. Close attention reveals a diverse range of influences here, from the worlds of Baroque and the avant-garde, to old school bop and '70s rock-fusion. There's a little solo piano, some trio arrangements, and wonderful quintet explorations. But what makes this perhaps one of the best of 2009 is that it is jazz that truly captures the emotion, refinement, and power of great classical music.

For this reason, it seems like a mistake to pigeonhole this as a crossover album. Pohjola plays Grieg's “Peasant's Song" and ...

TAKE FIVE WITH...

Take Five With Mika Pohjola

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Meet Mika Pohjola: Mika was born in Finland in 1971. He was an eager young pianist in learning Debussy, Gershwin and Grieg, but didn't want to practice his Beethoven. In 1987, his contract with Beethoven was released by jazz at an undisclosed sum. He moved to Sweden to study with the great Alvaro Is Rojas. While seriously studying tangible information of jazz harmony, improvisation and ear-training, he also graduated from the Royal College in Stockholm. In 1992-94, he was challenged by the beautiful ears, minds and hearts of Herb Pomeroy, Gary Burton, Ed Bedner and many others at Berklee. Starting ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola: Leivonen Lumimyrskyssa - Celebrating The Music Of Toivo Karki

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Perhaps the most intriguing question about a tribute album like this is the original performer's reaction to a modern shakeup of their work. Approval? Outrage? Indifference? A key factor, aside from quality, might be the artist's inclination for departure from convention. If so, Finnish composer Toivo Kärki probably would approve much, if not everything, about this 2005 release by a fellow countryman.

Leivonen Lumimyrskyssä is a documentary as well as musical experience by pianist and composer Mika Pohjola, who now lives in New York. A large roster of players in multiple ensembles perform fifteen songs; the CD also ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola: Scandinavian Yuletide Voices

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Mika Pohjola's Yuletide Voices provide us the most refreshing take on holiday music released this year. These self-produced Scandinavian Yuletide Voices are exactly that, Scandinavian, with a disclaimer... there are non-Scandinavian pieces here. Pohjola leads a bright orchestra of voices capably supported by an eclectic group of musicians through a truly international assembly of songs, evoking a myriad of holiday moods. This, coupled with an unusual and not so unusual repertoire, make for a successful holiday offering.

The Yuletide is metaphorically related to the warmth of the season within the cold of the season. These players and singers ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola: Muminr

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New York City based pianist/composer Mika Pohjola is noted for his forward thinking strategies, due to his multifaceted and thoroughly impressive jazz discography. However, this project sheds yet another light on the artist’s all encompassing visions and penchant for delving into non-jazz related activities. This release is founded upon the works of novelist Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories. Pohjola states that these works are “often portrayed as children’s fairy tales,” while adding, “Moomin stories can be enjoyed on many levels and at any age.” With that, the keyboardist has arranged, recorded and produced this absolutely lovely set, consisting of twenty-four lilting ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola: Landmark

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Pianist/composer Mika Pohjola represents one of those rare entities in modern music as his often-complex compositional style generally yields straightforward and easily attainable results. A musical mind at work for sure; however, Pohjola’s uncanny knack for integrating sonorous melodies with multi-layered and intricately formulated arrangements elicits notions of listener-friendliness.

With Landmark, Pohjola garners strong support from New York City-based guitarist Ben Monder, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon and others for a multifarious and deeply stylized program. On the opening title track,Pohjola employs harpsichord, synths and Fender Rhodes piano atop the rhythm sections’ bustling pulse and Johanna Grussner’s harmonious wordless vocals. Here ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola and Yusuke Yamamoto (Splasch: Sound of Village

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It’s pretty rare to hear free improvisation by mainstream jazzers, but that’s what we have here. This is not the more familiar sort of avant-garde improvisation where the musicians transcend their technique by immersion in the moment of performance, but rather a light-hearted romp through the pleasant cliches of two skillful musicians. Nevertheless, while Pohjola’s keen harmonic sense is usually jazz-inflected, this is not mainstream jazz, but a more exploratory endeavor with a stripped-down folksy sound. In particular, Yamamoto’s rhythms have a “world music” slant, or, as I would prefer to say, a trans-global folk slant. Quoting Pohjola from the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola & Yusuke Yamamoto (Splasc: Sound Of Village

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Helsinki, Finland born pianist/composer, Mika Pohjola continues to accelerate his stature within his adopted New York City headquarters. Here, the artist follows up his excellent trio-based “Live At The Blue Note” recording with this endearing and rather charming set titled, Sound Of Village. However on this release, Pohjola shares the spotlight with percussionist Yusuke Yamamoto, for a series of inspiring duets.

The musicians’ first crossed paths while studying at the renowned “Berklee College of Music” yet as the story goes, never played together until several years later, thus taking their articulate and altogether captivating blend of improvisational speak, sweet-tempered melodies ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mika Pohjola: Special Edition

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Finnish born pianist Mika Pohjola moved to New York City in 1995 where he has been creating a bit of a stir on the local scene which is a laudable accomplishment when considering the abundance of talent in New York’s fertile jazz environment. A good sampling of Pohjola’s creative juices, composing skills and technical gifts can be heard on Special Edition which contains 16 musical tracks comprised of compositions Pohjola composed between 1994-1999 and a series of interviews which were conducted in English and Finnish. On various tracks, Pohjola performs with such notables as bassist Bruno Raberg, guitarist/educator Mick Goodrick, ...



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