96

Juhani Aaltonen & Heikki Sarmanto: Conversations

Eyal Hareuveni By

Sign in to view read count
Juhani Aaltonen & Heikki Sarmanto: Conversations Saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen and pianist Heikki Sarmanto are two icons of the Finnish jazz scene. Collaborating constantly for almost fifty years in myriad outfits and formats, despite many moves in their busy musical careers, they have never recorded as a duo. These two "incurable romantics," as Aaltonen defines it, use this opportunity to record an album featuring their unique musical communication as one musical entity.

All 16 improvisations—based on Sarmanto's melodies, spontaneous creations in the studio and two standards—are launching pads for the pair's rich and sophisticated melodic language—romantic, at times, but never sentimental. Reflecting a shared musical history, collective experiences and love for improvisation, this remarkable duet was recorded without any preconceived notion of how the music was going to turn out; it simply flowed effortlessly from some mystical source outside their shared musical consciousness, almost creating itself, as Sarmanto testifies.

Most of Sarmanto's compositions—often drawing inspiration from his love of Finnish and American poetry—date back to the seventies, a creative period for both musicians, but his writing only suggests the basic framework for their highly sensitive and patient interplay. The free-flowing interplay sounds fresh, joyful and modest—focused totally on the compositions' melodic content, as if the two only recently began to explore and share their love for a good melody. Some of Sarmanto's material was first composed for ensembles with vocalists, while others reflect his experimentation with abstract form, free of fixed tonality. Three pieces appear here for the first time.

"The Sea In The Moonlight" is one of Sarmanto's most impressive interpretations of poetic texts, inspired by a poem by Eino Leino and featuring Aaltonen's passionate and poetic work, reflecting the poem's dark, somber tone. On "Evening Haze," based on poem by one of Finland's most beloved poets, Aaro Hellaakoksi, Aaltonen and Sarmanto use only a fragment of the song to articulate its sad and melody. Only the painful and intense "War Trane" is different, a composition that reflects the huge impression of John Coltrane 1961 Helsinki concert on the two of them, their love for the Coltrane's music and their experiences as "war children" that were sent to safety in Sweden towards the end of World War II.

The two standards—the romantic "You And The Night And The Music" and melancholic "Alone Together"—also stress the relaxed, intimate communication and almost infinite melodic possibilities that both players find, even in such well-known themes. The five spontaneous improvisations are more spiky and intense but still rely on a clear melodic structure despite the open-ended and often busier attitude. All sound as part of a long conversation between two veteran comrades that need few words and only the occasional gesture to convey a whole world of inspiring stories and deep emotions.

Little need be asked from such great masters, other than more recordings of such impressive and rare musical affinity.


Track Listing: CD1: When I Was With You...; So Much Happened; What We Cannot Imagine; ...It Happened Today; Le Petit Soldat; Just Like a Dream; You and the Night and the Music; Evening Prayer. CD2: From Nothing; No Work Bound Me; Free Souls; The Sea in the Moonlight; War Trane; Peace Talk; Alone Together; Evening Haze.

Personnel: Juhani Aaltonen: tenor saxophone; Heikki Sarmanto: piano.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: TUM Records


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Altered Narratives" CD/LP/Track Review Altered Narratives
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 2, 2016
Read "Alive Out There" CD/LP/Track Review Alive Out There
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 2, 2016
Read "Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974" CD/LP/Track Review Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "Dogs" CD/LP/Track Review Dogs
by Doug Collette
Published: February 28, 2016
Read "Out 'N' In" CD/LP/Track Review Out 'N' In
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 14, 2016
Read "Sputnik Stan Vol. 1: A Fistful Of Junk" CD/LP/Track Review Sputnik Stan Vol. 1: A Fistful Of Junk
by Jack Gold-Molina
Published: March 1, 2016

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!

Buy it!