This is that exceedingly rare item: a Finnish jazz record intended for the wider world. Ever since 1926, when the SS Andania famously put into Helsinki harbor with its "hot" band, The Andania Yankees, jazz has been part of musical life in this small country on the outer fringes of Europe. However, local jazzers, it must be said, have failed to make much of a mark internationally.
Why? Well, it must also be said that originality has never exactly been a feature of the local scene. The 1930s saw local trumpeter Eugen Malmsten hailed as "The Finnish Louis Armstrong
." A decade later and saxophonist Kalevi Viitamaki was "The Finnish Charlie Parker
." Now, somewhat belatedly, in Joonatan Rautio we have "The Finnish John Coltrane
Disturbing flashbacks to the man from Hamlet, North Carolina, crop up throughout this, Rautio's first album. But it's on the second track, "Kabul," that his raucously intense tenor hits its stride to bring back clearly defined memories of those heady days down at The Village Vanguard, when members of the audience would shout "Amen" as 'Trane finished blasting the place to kingdom come with his "sheets of sound" on numbers like "Spiritual" and "Lonnie's Lament."
More nostalgia is generated by Rautio's soprano on Joe Henderson
's "Tetragon." He has all the familiar Coltrane licks down pat. It's fiendishly clever, and presumably earned young Joonatan top marks at the Sibelius Academy Jazz Department, where he studied before going professional. But he's a big boy now and the question is where is the real Joonatan Rautio?
Well there are glimpses of him on "Quiet Boy," the best track on the album, which features some sensitive saxophone plus a very nice bass solo by Ville Herrala. "New Morning" too has its moments, though it exposes the limitations of the trio format. Rautio's sax is so overpowering it needs to be offset by something more than just bass and drums.
There's another fine solo from Herrala on Victor Young's "Weaver of Dreams" and again on the title track, bringing at least some relief from all the sub-Coltrane screaming and doodling. "Commitment" is actually an interesting composition, on which Rautio uses the pump organ to good effect. There are moments here and also on "Transition" when it seems he might escape Coltrane's influence to become himself. Alas, he never quite makes it.