Antti Lotjonen Quintet East: ALQE

Friedrich Kunzmann BY

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Antti Lotjonen Quintet East: ALQE
Bassist Antti Lotjonen is anything but a small name in the Finnish jazz cosmos. Holding down the deep frequency spectrum in some of the country's most renowned instrumental outfits, such as the electronica-infused jazz trio 3TM or the acoustic Ilmiliekki Quartet, Lötjönen has established a cunning reputation as a sideman leading up to this, his debut release as a leader with the so-called Quintet East. Accordingly high are the expectations of a musician of his caliber—expectations which are more than met by the vigorous and creative interplay found on ALQE. Chords are a no-show on an album which lives off the reciprocity between a bone-dry rhythm section and the engaging, melodic tripletism born out of horns. Nothing dare get in the way of this stomping affair.

Post-bop flair in the vein of 60s' Blue Note recordings and free-jazz heads in the spirit of Ornette Coleman's late 60s' works are ubiquitous throughout this bold primary statement. After a short solo bass introduction carrying a deceptively lulling allure, "Erzeben Strasse" stumbles into the listener's ear like a quirky fall followed by an elegant brace. Finnish star-trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and Koma Saxo's Mikko Innanen share the floor with Löjönen's 3TM colleague Jussi Kannaste, and together the three horns develop their respective characteristic voices to unifying effect. Pohjola's airy tone reflects a confident personality whose conviction again is mirrored by the dignified timbre of the adjacent saxophones.

Good performances are worth little without the appropriate compositional setting. But in that respect as well, the Finnish bassist excels. "Erezben Strasse" is a multi-themed essay with a variety of harmonic branches while "Pocket Yoga"'s explosive and surely Coleman-owed head makes a lasting impression even seconds into the tune. Hard-hitting swing thereafter opens the forum for each horn to patiently but determinedly tell its tale. As could only be expected from its title, "Oblique" finds the quintet at its most deconstructed, trading high saxophone squeals and low trumpet blows with untethered and entangled rhythmic shuffles next to sudden percussive implosions.

Interludes ("Monograph I," "Monograph II" & "P.S.") fluff up the flow of the album with their minimal instrumentation and short yet poignant messages. Maybe a tad too invasive to be given the designation of an interlude, "P.S." ruffles up the feathers by means of a driven drum beat and immediate melodic language. With "Le Petit Lactoire," the album furthermore features a confident ballad in which the saxophones are able to build intense momentum through calm and meaningful soloistic arcs. Soothing and subtly arranged, the horns, when not soloing, grace the composition's edges with understated harmonic embellishments instead of retracting from the scene completely—a prime example of the level of detail and layers of dynamic depth to which the entire venture is treated.

Whether a debut record or not, ALQE is nothing short of stunning either way. Vigor, curiosity and composure coexist in this amalgamation of talent and experience, where inspiration and originality feed off each other in a symbiotic way. Who'd have thought that tradition could sound so fresh?

Track Listing

Monograph I; Erzeben Strasse; Mary Hartman; Pocket Yoga; Monograph II; Oblique; P.S.; Le Petit Lactoire; Rowan.


Antti Lotjonen Quintet East; Antti Lotjonen: bass, acoustic; Jussi Kannaste: saxophone; Mikko Innanen: saxophone; Joonas Riippa: drums; Verneri Pohjola: trumpet.

Album information

Title: ALQE | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: We Jazz Records

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