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Verneri Pohjola: Pekka

Karl Ackermann By

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Finnish multi-instrumentalist Pekka Pohjola was a classically trained pianist and violinist but known best as a bassist in his native country. The proponent of a unique fusion of jazz, progressive rock and classical music, his work had elements of Frank Zappa, King Crimson and Antonín Dvořák, sometimes all within a single composition. Pohjola died while only in his fifties, somewhat distanced from his family by a life on the road. His son, trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, has been building his own career as part of the Finnish bands Quintessence, the UMO Jazz Orchestra and, most recently, recording with pianist Yelena Eckemoff on Blooming Tall Phlox (L&H, 2017). On Pekka, Pohjola pays homage to his father's music.

Pohjola's quintet includes Tuomo Prättälä on Fender Rhodes, guitarist Teemu Viinikainen, drummer Mika Kallio and bassist Antti Lötjönen. Prättälä has released four albums as a leader and is a Sony Jazz Prize winner—an honor that he shares in common with Viinikainen. The young guitarist has appeared on more than thirty recordings to date and is considered one of the most in-demand guitarists in Northern Europe. Kallio has the broadest experience in the group, having worked with Pekka Pohjola, Iro Haarla, Juhani Aaltonen, Tomasz Stanko, Wadada Leo Smith, John Lindberg, John Zorn and many others. Bassist Lötjönen also plays piano, trumpet and guitar, and works primarily in other Finnish groups.

"The First Morning" and "The Madness Subsides" were originally recorded by the senior Pohjola on B the Magpie (Virgin Records, 1974), a difficult recording to track down but one that was highly regarded in Finland and has been reissued on CD in recent years. The first of the tunes flows in cinematic grandeur, the guitar and trumpet spiraling with controlled sentiment. On "Madness..." the sound of Viinikainen's electric guitar is extraordinarily pleasing as it washes over the piece. Prättälä's keyboard bubbles up, leading up to Pohjola's haunting solo. The ballad-like "Inke and Me" is a showcase for Pohjola, who closes the tune with uplifting fanfare. "Benjamin," a beautifully pastoral piece, first appeared on Changing Waters (Self Published, 1992); Pohjola keeps close to the original's theme but stretches the time and ends with the keyboards taking a more animated approach.

The material on Pekka is culled from twenty years of Pekka Pohjola's music, and there is a good chance that many U.S. listeners will not be familiar with either father, son...or these tunes. That makes this album all the more satisfying a find. Pohjola is a talented and sophisticated musician, unafraid to play beyond convention. His previous three albums show him to be a creative composer in his own right. Pekka is well worth looking into.

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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