Sun Trio Laulumiehet Restaurant Helsinki, Finland May 22, 2012
We never really listen to music with only our ears; even in a dark room, lying back with headphones, our mind fills with images, sensations and other paraphernalia. Similarly, seeing Sun Trio perform in the hallowed surroundings of Helsinki's Laulumiehet Restaurant, it was impossible to disassociate the three young Finnish musicians from the oil paintings of illustrious musicians whose images hang on the wood-paneled walls all around the artists and the audience.
All three are heavily committed professionals, recognized around northern Europe and beyond as artists at the tops of their individual trees. In this sense it made complete sense to witness them in the visual company of the cream of Finland's musical forefathers: Väinö Rautawaara, Aarre Merikanto and of course Jean Sibelius. Some might say the two Louhivuori brothers, trumpeter Kalevi and drummer Olavi, were destined for such heights, sons of a music professor and his violinist wife, and raised in a household where each sibling played an instrument. However, this project only took real root when Olavi's former band mate, Antti Lötjönen from the Ilmiliekki Quartet, joined to anchor the occasionally ephemeral brothers with his rock-solid but dexterous bass lines.
With its second CD, Dreams Are True (Kepach Music), just released at the end of 2011, Sun Trio's evening show featured tunes mainly from this as well as the previous album, Time is Now (Cam Jazz, 2009). The set commenced with a solo trumpet improvisation, leading into a duo with both brothers, when Lötjönen joined with reverberant, sustained bass notes to complete the latest album's opener, "Subject for Silence." Most pieces were Kalevi Louhivuori's, except for a haunting cover of Rufus Wainwright's "Zebulon," on which the trumpet echoed around the theme that had already been established on a loop. After the initial solo work, the trio used very limited processing to evoke the depths and expanses of their vistas. The echoing or staccato trumpet tended to lead, but Olavi Louhivuori's exquisite and varied patterns rivaled his brother for attention. And who dares ignore such a bassman? The pleasure of this performance was in the variety of intensity and groove, let alone technique, that all three members utilized.
With nearly 10 years' sporadic experience together, the space they inhabit can be expansive, and feelings intense, but the overall impression was of a band able to live out of each others' pockets, still excited by the process of pushing each other to the limits of their respective musicality.