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Pianist/composer Mika Pohjola represents one of those rare entities in modern music as his often-complex compositional style generally yields straightforward and easily attainable results. A musical mind at work for sure; however, Pohjola’s uncanny knack for integrating sonorous melodies with multi-layered and intricately formulated arrangements elicits notions of listener-friendliness.
With Landmark, Pohjola garners strong support from New York City-based guitarist Ben Monder, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon and others for a multifarious and deeply stylized program. On the opening title track,Pohjola employs harpsichord, synths and Fender Rhodes piano atop the rhythm sections’ bustling pulse and Johanna Grussner’s harmonious wordless vocals. Here and throughout, Monder and Zenon engage in lilting choruses, poignant lines and make excellent use of space and depth. Conversely, Pohjola acts as the painter via his quaintly executed synth treatments, and acute sense of swing and rhythm. Meanwhile, Johanna Grussner provides the Midas touch on several pieces including the quasi hymn-like, folk melody titled, “Reppurin Laulu.”.
The divergent mix continues on the hard-driving “Young In The 80’s,” as Monder puts the pedal to the metal for some blistering, supercharged guitar work in concert with Pohjola and Zenon’s anthem-like choruses.
The pianist provides lucid imagery with a maturely stated melody on “Old Couples Lullaby”; whereby Monder’s dusky mid-tone electric and Grussner’s warm vocalese trigger the emotive elements.
Overall, there’s a lot to get excited about during this superbly crafted set, largely due to the leader’s creative spirit and unassailable infatuation with the jazz vernacular.
Track Listing: Landmark; Screen Play; A Ballad About Something; Future apparent; Psalm 549; Old Couples lullaby; Young In The 80.
Personnel: Mika Pohjola: piano, Rhodes, harpsichord, DX7 and sampling.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.