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Verneri Pohjola: Pekka

Roger Farbey By

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The highly-anticipated follow-up to Verneri Pohjola's widely acclaimed 2015 album Bullhorn consolidates his position as Finland's foremost jazz musician. His prodigious talent is hardly surprising given that his late father was the internationally acclaimed jazz-influenced prog-rock bassist and composer Pekka Pohjola, who died in 2008 aged just 56. This album is a reworking of some of Pohjola senior's tunes, but integrated into his son's vibrant compositions. It necessarily takes a different turn from Pohjola's previous album, harnessing elements of jazz rock, but without being submerged by that idiom.

"The Dragon Of Kätkävaara" (taken from his father's 1980 album Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme) opens in a subdued modal mood bestrewn with raindrop-like percussive effects (or perhaps Alien-like sound effects). But halfway in there's a dramatic shift as a menacingly heavy, vamp is introduced. Pohjola then proceeds to tear-up the furniture with a coruscating trumpet solo. His confident, clarion-like horn shining through yet another melee.

"First Morning" ("Ensimmäinen Aamu") is from Pekka Pohjola's 1974 album Harakka Bialoipokku and is an absolute killer, its memorable and uplifting anthemic theme instantly sending shivers down the spine. A longish track at ten minutes, it's held-together by the natural cohesiveness of this quintet. Pohjola's soaring trumpet soloing here is spectacular.

"Inke And Me" is a more introspective vehicle, the resonant bass and chiming electric piano redolent of Miles Davis's In A Silent Way with Pohjola's searching trumpet at times seeming to emulate the master. A repeated theme is taken up midway, disrupting the ambient sound, but without detriment to the whole piece. By contrast "Pinch" ("Nipistys"), from Pohjola senior's Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva 1972 debut album, charges along with a galloping vamp and an additional short theme insinuated later for good measure. Startling in its sheer forcefulness it benefits from guitarist Teemu Viinikainen acquitting himself here with panache.

The spacey "Madness Subsides" ("Sekoilu Seestyy"), also from the album Harakka Bialoipokku, includes a rich bass solo from Antti Lötjönen and a tintinnabulating guitar solo plus echoey trumpet from Pohjola amid a soundscape of crackling and popping FX. "Benjamin" starts as an elegant, pastoral exploration with double-tracked trumpet followed by a brief accelerando passage midway through and a chiming electric piano solo, concluding with the twin horns in a fanfare coda. The final number, "Innocent Questions" is a placid duet between keyboard and trumpet, the two instruments endlessly circling each other in the midst of a dulcet melody.

What Pekka successfully achieves here is to afford his father's compositions a potential for far greater exposure than they originally received and inevitably precipitating many a search through his back catalogue of albums. But crucially, Pekka will most definitely and justifiably raise Verneri Pohjola's profile with an unequivocally superb record that marks an exciting and electrifying new course for this Finnish virtuoso.

For more on Pohjola senior, check out the 2009 article by Anthony Shaw Remembering Pekka Pohjola.

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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