249

Raoul Bj: Ritual

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Raoul Bj: Ritual Finnish-American guitarist Raoul Björkenheim is more or less the definition of iconoclast, which is especially notable given the fact that he attended one of the biggest jazz factories in the United States, Boston's Berklee School of Music. Berklee has employed and produced its share of guitarists (including most prominently alumnus John Scofield and professor Pat Metheny), but none sound even remotely like Björkenheim. He's uniquely noisy, focused, and open to lessons from genres as disparate as death metal and free jazz.

The group known as Krakatau was founded in 1985 in the wake of Finnish drummer/composer/bandleader Edward Vesala's Sound & Fury, which Björkenheim joined for three records and three years of live performance. Reedists Jorma Tapio and Tapani Rinne share the same pedigree. Krakatau recorded Ritual in 1988, to be followed by three more records with varying lineups. Björkenheim also made waves (and met new ears) with 2002's Scorch Trio alongside bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love.

Ritual originally came out in 1988 on Hieronymus, was subsequently reissed by Cuneiform on CD in 1996 with two extra tracks, and has just recently been placed back in print. It's not an easy record by any stretch, though listenability is not anyone's priority here. Björkenheim plays his axe with a dirty tone and little regard for jazz convention; the rhythms more often fall into deep, ritualistic trance music or open space than any obvious swing or groove. The lead instruments (mostly Björkenheim's guitar plus Tapio and Rinne's reeds) tend to swirl together in loose groupings when it's time to stretch out, or center obliquely around melodies when it's time to come together.

The freedom of speech, built upon square beats, recalls Ornette Coleman's early work with Blood Ulmer, plus Prime Time and Shannon Jackson's own ritualistic hub. (Listen especially to the controlled freedom of "La Lluana," for example.) But Björkenheim is no Blood Ulmer. He flies off into unstructured feedback ("New Day"), riffs deep in the bass ("Foot Talk"), screams for attention ("Matinaal"), and converses noisily with horns ("Ritual"). He even goes acoustic on "Epilog." The two things that make this music work are its unrelenting, forward marching pulse and the way the lead instruments come together in odd and unpredictable ways.

Björkenheim also does well with composition: "Foot Talk" starts with Ayler-esque screams around a gospelly theme, tense as hell, before submitting to more lyrical playing atop head-banging rhythms. It's an odd combination, and it works.

Visit Cuneiform Records and Raoul Björkenheim on the web.

Note: this record is a top ten modern jazz guitar pick.

Track Listing: 1. Foot Talk 2. La Lluana 3. Matinaal 4. Epilog 5. Go 6. Dog Honk 7. Ritual 8. What? 9. New Day 10. Ray 11. Bygones 12. Relentless

Personnel: Jorma Tapio, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, bass flute, bones; Tapani Rinne, tenor and baritone saxophones, wood flute; Raoul Bj

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Nightfall CD/LP/Track Review Nightfall
by John Kelman
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Pekka CD/LP/Track Review Pekka
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 22, 2017
Read In the Still of the Night CD/LP/Track Review In the Still of the Night
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Zea CD/LP/Track Review Zea
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Asian Fields Variations CD/LP/Track Review Asian Fields Variations
by John Kelman
Published: May 21, 2017
Read Left Right Left CD/LP/Track Review Left Right Left
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Day By Day" CD/LP/Track Review Day By Day
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "Open Window / Flying Colors" CD/LP/Track Review Open Window / Flying Colors
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 22, 2016
Read "Masters Of War" CD/LP/Track Review Masters Of War
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 29, 2017
Read "Short Stories" CD/LP/Track Review Short Stories
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 3, 2016
Read "The Many Minds of Richie Cole" CD/LP/Track Review The Many Minds of Richie Cole
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: April 24, 2017
Read "Simplicity" CD/LP/Track Review Simplicity
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 6, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, and provide read access to our future articles.