Jarmo Saari's Republic
Tapiola, Espoo, Finland
April 26, 2014
Spring in the north of Europe is long awaited after the long dark winter months, and with the yearly arrival of April Jazz in the eastern Helsinki suburb of Tapiola the ears of the city's musical community inevitably orientate in this direction. Every year this mini festival brings a host of American musicians for solo concerts and for late night interplay with local Finnish musicians. These informal cross cultural gatherings aside, the festival typically also showcases some of the best of contemporary local jazz, this year providing the superb Louhi Club stage for high profile local guitarist Jarmo Saari
to introduce his latest project, Republic.
With three professional percussionists behind him one could expect the solo instrumentalist to dig deep into his sonic palette to find the mortar to bind the rhythms. And for the past ten years or so perfecting this palette is what Jarmo Saari has been doing, performing mainly alone in various guises as his solo act Solu (Finnish for 'cell') where his adroit use of loops and effects were supplemented by a glass harp, viola da gamba and occasionally even trombone.
Each of the drummers also came with extensive dossiers from the world of Finnish popular music: Olavi Louhivuori
with jazz credentials for his own band Oddarrang
, as well as highly respected nu-jazz pioneers, Ilmiliekki
; Sami Kuoppamäki, drummer with the legendary former psycho-jammers Kingston Wall and contemporary carriers of the same flame, The Von Hertzen Brothers; and Abdissa "Mamba" Assefa, Ethiopian born but naturalized Finn with a long history of successful collaboration with Finnish artists including accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen with electronic percussionist Samuli Kosminen.
While almost all of Saari's later works have been largely instrumental, in Espoo he put his own voice on display, as well as calling upon the support of two other well respected local singers, soul master Sam Huber, and rapper, singer and environmental activist of Don Johnson Big Band fame, Tommy Lindgren. These guests brought a higher vocal focus, which allowed Saari to focus on his main metier, those enchantingly tweeked guitar sounds and washes that he layers, one over the other, to build a live wall of sound. With all three drummers working surprisingly hard behind him, Saari carried the show with a set of mainly guitar-driven rhythmic power that took everything before it, which only highlighted the contrast in sound when he laid aside his axe for some delicate wand-work with the theremin. If ever there was a sound that defies any seasonal classification this must be it, as refreshing in spring as in any other time of year!