Elifantree at Birdland, Helsinki

Anthony Shaw By

Sign in to view read count
Helsinki, Finland
June 16, 2010

Birdland is the latest jazz venue to open in Helsinki, and as one can expect from a location that is as central as it is conventional, the fare is typically close to the middle of the road. However, in an attempt to woo an audience from outside this field Finland's entry to the 2008 Nordic Jazz Comets competition was invited to perform its usually enervated, intriguing brand of pop-jazz. The band, additionally, brings the kudos of having been voted 2009's Concert of the Year by Stuart Nicholson in The Wire.
A gig by Elifantree is an assault on the senses, but not only in the physical sense. The band comprises a saxophonist and a percussionist, both male and both well versed in the rigors of all-out testosterone sound, who are equally matched by a female, whose vocals dominate the band's ethos, as well as the surrounding ether.

Anni Elif Egecioglu is of Turkish and Swedish origin, and there is little in her initial demeanor that hints at her power. When her vocals commence, though, it's clear that an equal portion of the creative input is hers, if not disproportionately so. She is the band's point of access with the audience, and with her songs of recriminations, aspirations and intentions, she evokes at the same time the sounds and subtleties of Joni Mitchell as well as the passion and intensity of Janis Joplin: on the one hand, begging and beseeching and, on the other, wailing and whispering. Her style can be operatic or intimate but, as often, is more shamanistic, leading the band in its slowly building, convoluted musical trances.
The trio's sound is highly rhythmic, with Pauli Lyytinen's sax chucking out blips like an inspired Morse-code operator, and Timo Rönkkö pounding his drum set with demonic precision, while Egecioglu sways and slaps her thighs in a shaky delirium. But the tunes evolve through equally pastoral vistas when the glockenspiel takes center-stage and the drums become a rattle of tinkling tin, or Egecioglu picks up her cello. Even the lime-green, harmonically moaning, whirling plastic tube "instrument" seems to blend effortlessly with their soundscape.

The songs, however, are central to Elifantree's show. Words bubble from Egecioglu like a child's dreamtale, not always intelligible but fully charged with emotion. The experience is almost gestalt in its extremes of both power and delicacy, something of an aural hallucination. Despite this potential weirdness it seems to make sense, even if the audience under the photos of Parker, Monk and company looked pretty perplexed at times. But isn't this what one pays for in a jazz club— at least once in a while?


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Suoni Per Il Popolo 2017 Live Reviews Suoni Per Il Popolo 2017
by Mike Chamberlain
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Lance Canales & The Flood At Biscuits & Blues Live Reviews Lance Canales & The Flood At Biscuits & Blues
by Walter Atkins
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Chris Oatts Quintet at Chris’ Jazz Cafe Live Reviews Chris Oatts Quintet at Chris’ Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Punkt Festival 2016" Live Reviews Punkt Festival 2016
by Henning Bolte
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "T.S. Monk Sextet at Revolution Hall" Live Reviews T.S. Monk Sextet at Revolution Hall
by Tom Borden and Eric Gibbons
Published: March 10, 2017
Read "Redwood City Salsa Festival 2016" Live Reviews Redwood City Salsa Festival 2016
by Walter Atkins
Published: September 29, 2016

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.