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Verneri Pohjola: Pekka

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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On this sophomore release with Edition Records Verneri Pohjola reinterprets the music of his late father, Pekka Pohjola. Pekka was an internationally acclaimed jazz- fusion/progressive-rock multi-instrumentalist, best known for his chops on the bass during his ventures in the 70s and 80s, collaborating, among others, with Mike Oldfield. Due to his father having been educated primarily in classical music, the compositions, while very diverse and at times Frank Zappa influenced, often integrate classical cadences that tend to allude to more orchestral arrangements while staying very much in the realms of modern jazz.

The album opens with "The Dragon of Katkavaara," a piece originally found on the 1980 release "Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme." The song starts off with some electronic percussive elements setting the mood for a slow oriental melody, led by trumpet and guitar. As soon as this comfort zone is reached, the guitar switches into a brutal fuzzy overdrive and a sluggish chorus kicks in. At this point Verneri breaks free from the ensemble and threads along the lines of near dissonance, reminiscent of Miles Davis' soloing on "Bitches Brew" with the electronics returning for closure.

"First Morning" begins with a blissful introduction of the main theme, led by beautiful fluid lines on the guitar and a very clear trumpet. The two instruments rotate the melody while Tumo Prättälä and the rhythm group care for a tight background. Not unlike the first tune Pekka then slides into a trumpet solo that comes very close to the borders of the abstract, but never forgetting the harmonic landscape it is bound to. Tumo replaces Pekka for a more harmonic approach to the melody opening up the board for a beautiful finish by guitarist Teemu Viinikainen.

The quiet interplay that is "Inke and Me" barely comes to halt when it is directly contrasted by the speedy polka anthem "Pinch." Antti Lötjönen and Teemu Viinikainen get their moments to shine here. It is at this point that the album starts to shift into more ambient soundscapes. "Madness Subsides" sees the electronic elements recurring though never falling into a repetitive pattern but on the contrary building up and breaking down a multitude of different melodic concepts over the 13 minutes.

With "Benjamin" the band takes a quiet, melodious path, paving the way for the dreamy finish, "Innocent Questions." Here Pekka's trumpet soars vulnerably naked in a room of reverb, barely accompanied by Tumo Prättälä and Teemu Viinikainen. It is interesting to compare these reinterpretations with the original versions by his father. At the same time it is just as interesting and overwhelming to hear them completely detached from that specific context, which is probably the case for most folk on the U.S. Side. Verneri treats these pieces as if they were his own and they implicitly become exactly that.

Framed in a very clear and spacious production (recorded and mixed by Mikko Raita, mastered by Svante Forsbäck) this music sounds very new, exciting and emotionally authentic. He had the following to say at the end of the original press release: 'Rediscovering the music was an emotional and therapeutic exercise for me and recording the album provided me with the perfect way to remember him as a father and musician.' This process can be heard on this recording.

Track Listing: Dragon; First Morning; Inke and Me; Pinch; Madness Subsides; Benjamin; Innocent Questions.

Personnel: Verneri Pohjola: trumpet; Tuomo Prättälä: Fender Rhodes; Teemu Viinikainen: guitar; Mika Kallio: drums; Antti Lötjönen: bass.

Title: Pekka | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Edition Records

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