Klaus Suonsaari: Portrait in Sound & Offering

Jeff Stockton By

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Klaus Suonsaari
Portrait in Sound
Focus Records

Portrait in Sound is a brilliantly programmed hour of music that builds on the foundation of the bluesy sax-and-drum swing of "Semblance," winds its way through fairly straight-ahead quartet workouts such as the piano-driven "Whack!" and the soprano-led "Offering" and dabbles in the abstract impressionism of "Morning Rain" and "Wherewithal." This band, however, is anything but conservative. Scott Robinson's resonating tenor dominates "Africana" as he blows over the funky tick-tock of a cowbell; "JK's Woven Hat," vaguely reminiscent of the folk-songs and national anthems embedded in Albert Ayler's compositions; and "Delicato," not delicate at all, where Robinson honks in the lower end and blares like a siren in the upper, with square-shouldered overblowing in between. "Satin Doll" is transformed by what might be a tremolo, sounding alternately like a Theremin and a gnat about to make a crash landing. "Chip Shot" commences with the crash of a gong and carries forth with Julian Thayer playing his bass like his thumb is running down the teeth of a comb, before he launches into a fury of ferocious bowing.

Klaus Suonsaari
Focus Records

Portrait in Sound 's "Folk Song" gives you a taste of the ability of pianist Frank Carlberg's persistent left hand to ratchet up the tension generated by Suonsaari's stirring brush work and Thayer's ringing contrabass. Without Thayer and Robinson for Offering , Suonsaari plays marimba with one hand and rides the cymbal with the other through "Broadway," while Carlberg's piano and Fender Rhodes interjections create the accompaniment for a bemused cat burglar in the act of picking a safe. The melody of "Tea for Two" is elongated past recognition and "Tivoli" features space-age keyboard blips. The drums rumble and roll and the piano pounds during "Arcane" and "Motion" is pensive and introverted, again spotlighting the drummer's splendid brushes. Offering finds Carlberg and Suonsaari observing most of the conventions of piano-drum duos, but retaining the spirit of improvisational adventurousness so crucial to the success of the quartet.

Portrait in Sound

Tracks: 1. Semblance; 2. Whack!; 3. Offering; 4. Folk Song; 5. Chip Shot; 6. Morning Rain; 7. Wherewithal; 8. Africana; 9. Satin Doll; 10. JK's Woven Hat; 11. Likeness; 12. Delicato; 13. Océan.
Personnel: Klaus Suonsaari: drums, percussion, golf equipment; Scott Robinson: reeds; Frank Carlberg: piano; Julian F. Thayer: bass.


Tracks: 1. Suker; 2. Whack!; 3. Broadway; 4. Tea for Two; 5. Tivoli; 6. Offering; 7. Arcane; 8. Motion; 9. The Slip; 10. Frantic; 11. The Bedroom Suite of Gauguin and Madame Hussein.
Personnel: Klaus Suonsaari: drums, percussion; Frank Carlberg: piano, keyboard.


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