155

Ahava: Ahava

Matthew Wuethrich By

Sign in to view read count
Ahava: Ahava When jazz vocalists drew from folk blues and popular song they found abundant and lively inspiration; recently it seems they are returning only to find a dry well. Many contemporary vocalists adhere so closely to the accepted repertoire and moods that they have taken the life out of the tradition. Yet Finland's Ahava, featuring vocalist Mia Simanainen, have gone searching elsewhere for their sources and what they have found is fertile ground: Scandinavian folk song and poetry. On their self-titled debut they blend storytelling, a little folk magic, a classical sense for dynamics and jazz improvisation to form a mysterious, spacious sound that captivates and surprises.

Simanainen, who composes most of the album's material, sings in clean, fresh tones with articulation and a sharp attack. In her voice one can hear her varied musical inspirations: a classical music background shows in the precise pitch; folk music roots bring a lilting cadence; jazz allows her to vocalize like a horn on many tracks. Her ability to express herself in three languages-Finnish, Swedish and English- offers tone colors that most contemporary jazz vocalists cannot. Listen to the breathy consonants and warm vowels of "Kristallen den fina", a Swedish folk song, and let your imagination wonder about the lush possibilities of Swedish in a jazz context.

Simanainen's band paints the needed dramatic landscape for her ideas. Kari Ikonen, Mika Kallio and Sonny Heinila provide sensitive, subtle support while maintaining an understated intensity. "Lilya" has a sparse funkiness created by Ikonen's Fender Rhodes punctuations and Kallio's quiet but insistent ride cymbal. Then the rhythm dissolves and the tempo is merely hinted at, building a subtle tension until returning to the loose opening groove. On "Usvan Neito" the band uses their diversity of musical sources to mirror the narration of a story. As the story unfolds, Heinila embellishes the fragile melody on both nay, an Egyptian bamboo flute, and soprano sax, while Ikonen on piano builds the harmonic layers and Kallio colors delicately on the drums (like on much of the album). At the climax, Kallio breaks into a tumbling tom-tom beat and Ikonen's phrasing becomes choppier and more aggressive.

Ahava explores moods and stories quite separate from the usual nostalgic, sentimental fare of jazz vocal combos. Song titles like "Usvan Neito" (Maiden of the Mist), "Suo" (Swamp), "Kaarmelaulu" (Snake Song") and "Sato" (Harvest) point to ideas close to the heart of Finnish folk art: farming, nature and storytelling. "Usvan Neito" tells, first in Finnish, of a girl who has run off into the forest alone. Simanainen adapts a Swedish poem by Karin Boye for the conclusion of the song, and leaves the listener to wonder if the girl has drowned herself in a forest pond.

By digging into alternate traditions, Ahava has unearthed new stories and fresh emotions that enrich and expand the jazz vocal idiom. The mysteries and music of Ahava linger, and after each listening grow deeper.

Track Listing: 1.Suo 2.Emilia 3.Lilya 4. Agda Airi 5.Jos oisit 6.Sato 7.Kaarmelaulu 8.Usvan neito 9.Kristallen den fina

Personnel: Mia Simanainen-vocals Sonny Heinila-tenor and soprano sax, nay and kaval flute Kari Ikonen-piano,Rhodes Mika Kallio-drums

Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Fiasko Records | Style: Vocal


Shop

More Articles

Read Rags And Roots CD/LP/Track Review Rags And Roots
by James Nadal
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Tangled CD/LP/Track Review Tangled
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Is It Me...? CD/LP/Track Review Is It Me...?
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 25, 2017
Read 14.11.2016 CD/LP/Track Review 14.11.2016
by Nicola Negri
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Malnoia CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017
Read "On Hollywood Boulevard" CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "In Movement" CD/LP/Track Review In Movement
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 4, 2016
Read "Oddara" CD/LP/Track Review Oddara
by James Nadal
Published: October 15, 2016
Read "Madjafalao" CD/LP/Track Review Madjafalao
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 19, 2017
Read "Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play...
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "The Seasons" CD/LP/Track Review The Seasons
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 11, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!