All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

346

Mika Pohjola: Northern Sunrise

Warren Allen By

Sign in to view read count
With Northern Sunrise, pianist Mika Pohjola steps into the space between old and new worlds. Close attention reveals a diverse range of influences here, from the worlds of Baroque and the avant-garde, to old school bop and '70s rock-fusion. There's a little solo piano, some trio arrangements, and wonderful quintet explorations. But what makes this perhaps one of the best of 2009 is that it is jazz that truly captures the emotion, refinement, and power of great classical music.

For this reason, it seems like a mistake to pigeonhole this as a crossover album. Pohjola plays Grieg's "Peasant's Song" and his own "Passacaglia," but he also mixes in superb jazz standards. It is beautiful, but not fluffy. It is challenging, but not unpleasant. It is thoroughly thought-out music, combined with the spontaneity of superb improvisation.

The band has a distinctly introspective quality to it. Bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Mark Ferber weave backdrops that unreel with the easy, flickering tempo of film. The excellent altoist Steve Wilson and guitarist Ben Monder are understated at times, though their talent shines through every chance they get. A real highlight is a buoyant "Sweet and Lovely," that stretches out as the sax and guitar get into it with the piano, and Wilson quotes Charlie Parker's "Buzzy" in the heat that follows.

All the same, Pohjola is the central presence. He plays with a penetrating and evocative touch that has a chant-like intensity to it, particularly on tunes like the title track. His statements are soulful in a pensive kind of way, one which reaches for both the brain and the heart in the span of one chord. His compositions mirror that approach with a mix of variation and experimentation.

The sound never veers into dissonance, but there are moments that expand expectations, such as a prepared piano treatment of "Have You Met Miss Jones" that rings the entire tune out of the instrument's warbling strings. Eerie and darkly humorous, it shows Pohjola's ability to find beauty in unexpected places, by unexpected ways.

Similarly, "Ebb & Flow" is a tribute to bipolar disorder and mental illness that revolves around a host of changing time signatures and feels. Yet for all the technical transformations, all the moments of tension that arise, at no point does the group lose its tenderness. This is accomplished with a delicate use of space, which makes almost every tune here accessible to a broad audience.

In some ways, the music suggests the distinct sound popularized on the ECM label. Pohjola's solo piano treatment of Charles Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" finds that perfect space where jazz, America's classical music, meets and draws off that of Europe. With its measured flourishes and blocks of tugging dissonance, it captures the singular beauty of this album—a willingness to close gaps, and explore every inch of the spaces that open up.


Track Listing: Northern Sunrise; Early Global Hearing; Blues Chacarera; Ebb & Flow; Old Manhattan Tango; Peasant's Song; Sweet and Lovely; Intermediate Global Hearing; Passacaglia; Have You Met Miss Jones; New Halling; Human Impact; Late Global Hearing; Duke Ellington's Sound of Love.

Personnel: Miak Pohjola: piano, compositions; Steve Wilson: saxophones; Ben Monder: guitar; Massimo Biolcati: bass; Mark Ferbrer: drums; Franco Pinna: bombo (3).

Title: Northern Sunrise | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Blue Music Group

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Children's Song No. 20

Children's Song No. 20

Mika Pohjola
Chick Corea: Children's Songs

Har du sett Herr Kantarell

Har du sett Herr Kantarell

Mika Pohjola
Nu ska vi sjunga (Now We Shall...

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Take Five With...
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Chick Corea: Children's Songs

Chick Corea:...

Blue Music Group
2014

buy
Trio Hour

Trio Hour

Blue Music Group
2013

buy
Northern Sunrise

Northern Sunrise

Blue Music Group
2009

buy
Leivonen Lumimyrskyssa - Celebrating The Music Of Toivo Karki

Leivonen...

Change Records
2006

buy
Muminr

Muminr

Change Records
2002

buy

Related Articles

Read Undercurrent - Live at Theater Gutersloh CD/LP/Track Review
Undercurrent - Live at Theater Gutersloh
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 24, 2018
Read Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics CD/LP/Track Review
Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 24, 2018
Read Invisible Atlas CD/LP/Track Review
Invisible Atlas
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 24, 2018
Read Blue Dream CD/LP/Track Review
Blue Dream
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: June 24, 2018
Read Still Dreaming CD/LP/Track Review
Still Dreaming
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 24, 2018
Read A New Beginning CD/LP/Track Review
A New Beginning
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 23, 2018
Read "Alive In The East?" CD/LP/Track Review Alive In The East?
by Chris May
Published: June 22, 2018
Read "Weather Walker" CD/LP/Track Review Weather Walker
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 11, 2018
Read "Each Edge of the Field" CD/LP/Track Review Each Edge of the Field
by John Eyles
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "Territoires" CD/LP/Track Review Territoires
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 26, 2017
Read "Cycles of Animation" CD/LP/Track Review Cycles of Animation
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "Cherry ‎– Sakura" CD/LP/Track Review Cherry ‎– Sakura
by John Sharpe
Published: September 24, 2017