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Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio at Sellohalli

Anthony Shaw By

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Mikko Innanen's Innkvisitio
Sellohalli
10th Anniversary Concert
Helsinki
March 13, 2014

Much music is best consumed with a pinch of salt, if not a glass of beer or something stronger, and the best works of Mikko Innanen are quite hard on the aural digestive system. But as any good meal appeals to far more senses than the gastronomic, so Innanen is involved in more than a musical odyssey. Moreover the meal he serves has to be considered very much in its context.

This concert formed a 10th anniversary show for his main band, Innkvisitio, consolidated in recent years with Lithuanian saxophonist and clarinetist Liudas Mockunas alongside original Finnish members keyboardist Seppo Kantanen and drummer Joonas Riippa. The concert was also a showcase event for Innanen's producer Charles Gil who, having frequently introduced this band to audiences in his native France, provided a perfect counterpoint to Innkvisitio's angular and somewhat awkward music in the form of cellist Vincent Courtois and the two saxophonists who make up his current project, Medium. In contrast to the often rhythmic and melodic, but broadly adventurous work of this French based trio, Innanen's quartet operate in a universe without obvious musical guidelines.

To say that Innanen's writing is experimental is to disregard the unique contributions of the other band members. Each one operates on a plane of innovative playing that makes their interaction essentially challenging, and where only individual solos offer the semblance of a traditionally structured live show. To start, keyboardist Seppo Kantanen handles synthesized sound and bass from a keyboard, but in a manner that makes the bottom end sound like a herder guiding his wayward flock in the general direction of 'home.' Only on their final "Retrohetero" did the insistent percussive riff break the normal meandering breadth of the bass. Riippa on drums also pays scant regard for overt interaction with his colleagues, using all manner of objects in addition to his drumkit, including swipes of his wipe-down towel or blown breath over the surface of the cymbals. Such general inventiveness might seem an indulgence, but if so it takes the proponents far.

Set up on the extensive stage in this wonderfully equipped and manned community arts hall on the edge of Helsinki in a deep square lay-out. The two saxophonists at front were frequently leading, especially Innanen on baritone and alto, sometimes treated through a small amplifier, and frequently supplemented by additional props like a duck-call or an empty beer can. In broadening his soundscape beyond conventional musical sources, and beyond his normal use of extraneous objects, Innanen continued the style of his much reviewed album Clustrophy (TUM, 2010). But this night though the program was totally new and included three pieces based on pieces of spoken word, short extracts from the poems of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "Cast Up," "Among the Lolly Flowers" and "Looking for Love." Unlike Courtois' trio, this music was typically atonal and asymmetric, but in the context of Innanen's both delicate and driving modern jazz sounsdscape it is a musical journey well worth any agoraphobia it inspires.

Photo Credit: Maarit Kytoharju

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