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 liner notes: “In order not to scare people with the word ‘free improvisation’ (it’s easily mixed up with the genre “free jazz” which pertains to the jazz developments of the 60’s) I only gave organizers comfortable terms, such as ‘contemporary sounds’ and ‘world music’. So, we went on tour playing free improvisations—something that has been done but that we had never done before.” There’s a nice variety of instrumental colors on this disc, with Pohjola playing harpsichord and Fender Rhodes in addition to his more usual piano. Furthermore, Yamamoto plays a variety of drums and cymbals and even plays some clay flute to pleasant effect. While I have enjoyed harpsichord music performed by Jukka Tiensu in the past, and of course there’s Ligeti’s “Continuum”, Pohjola’s harpsichord playing on this disc is missing just about all the nuances I like to hear in music; his piano playing is much superior, and generally very pretty. In contrast to most free improvisation, this music is based on straightforward melodic and rhythmic motifs with a great deal of linear development, making it very easy to discern when things are “on” and when the musicians are just treading water; there’s little room for interpretation, unlike more challenging improvisation that explores dynamics, texture, density, timbre, etc. While not ground-breaking or profound, this is a very listenable and enjoyable album with a wide range of ideas and it represents a creative and mildly risk-taking endeavor for these young musicians.
This review is reprinted courtesy of All About Jazz Italia: www.allaboutjazz.com/italy
Track Listing: Dandelion/Tom's Favorite Treats/Bulan Mei/Ultimatum/The Center of the Universe/A Chant for the Procurator/Nature's Choice/Exchange Place/Season's Greetings/Desert Urbanism/Berceuse 1823/Praludium Und Variationen/Designs and Shapes/Sound of Village/Things to Come
Personnel: Mika Pohjola-Piano, Harpischord, Fender Rhodes; Yusuke Yamamoto-Percussion, Drums, Berimbau,Talking Drum, Clay Flute, Voice