In a world of piano trios, a point of difference is simply essential. This particular trio, hailing from Finland and led by pianist Aki Rissanen, makes that difference clear from the outset. The key to this, and in addition to each of the musicians' individual talents, is the group's ability to change mood subtly and kaleidoscopically. It's also hardly surprising that this is a successful album considering the fact that this same trio comprised the rhythm section on Verneri Pohjola's brilliant third album Bullhorn, released on Edition in 2015. Rissanen, who has worked with the likes of Dave Liebman, Jim Beard, Mike Gibbs, Jeff Watts and Randy Brecker, composed all the pieces in this set.
"Pulsar" is initially driven by Teppo Mäkynen's compelling drumming and an opening click- clacking salvo of meticulously delivered rim shots. One facet of Rissanen's compositions is their transformational nature and this number is a prime example of that, tracing an arc from relative tranquility and building gradually to a crescendo and then quietening once more. There's also a robust bass solo here by Antti Lötjönen. Finally a brief repetition of the angular theme, stated earlier on by the trio, brings this strong number to a close.
"For Rainbows" has a more abstract, searching feel, with florid piano, and is initially accompanied by Mäkynen's deployment of tintinnabulating percussion in addition to the conventional kit. "Paysages Pas Sages" insistently repeats the initial melody at the climactic conclusion but the bulk of the number is taken up by rhythmic pulses courtesy of hand drumming and waves of explorative piano.
"Aleatoric," a lively number gives way to the slower, more pensive "Signettes," bass and drums typically providing the subtlest of accompaniment. "For Jimmy Giuffre" follows an approximation of the third stream route that the inimitable Jimmy Giuffre carved out, but there's also more than a hint of Bill Evans too. Mäkynen's provides percussive drive with brushes and the most delicate of drum solos too. This contrasts with the very short and frenetic "Eye-Opener." The fast foot-tapper "Bird Vision" is led by a keen bass riff and a bugle-like reveille call on piano. Whilst Rissanen explores the upper reaches of the piano, the bass and drums hold down a gripping rhythm.
"Amorandum" changes from its initial sedate ballad style, via a passing quote of the reveille call heard on the previous track, building to something much more raucous and solid by its conclusion. This track typifies the trio's ability to almost imperceptibly and seamlessly metamorphose Rissanen's compositions through different tempos and styles. But the over-arching characteristic of this excellent album is its ability to consistently engage the listener, which it does with aplomb.
Pulsar; For Rainbows; Paysages Pas Sages; Aleatoric; Signettes; For
Jimmy Giuffre; Eye-Opener; Bird Vision; Amorandom.
Aki Rissanen: piano; Antti Lötjönen: bass; Teppo Mäkynen: drums.
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