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Sun Trio in Snowy Helsinki


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The Sun Trio might be said to approximate the style of British artist David Hockney
Sun Trio
Record Release Party
Piano Bar, Helsinki, Finland
January 20, 2009

I have to confess I was raised on an adolescent diet of power trio rock in late 1960s UK—Cream, the Groundhogs, Taste, not to mention Jimi. Oh the intensity! Could it be that we are programmed to respond to music from a trio in a different way to units of four or more—because my experience of this new trio of young Finnish jazzers, winners of the 2006 Young Nordic Jazz Comets, was equally exciting as the trios I'd responded to back in the day.

I caught them at the release gig for their first record in a rambling bar in downtown Helsinki, filled with the typical cross-section of rasta-haired youth, colorful graybeards and balding hippie elderlies that patronize live jazz. While most of the audience was spread around the room, in five rows down in front were 30 or more young devotees with rapt attention anchored on these three young pros. All three are well-established members of the musical fraternity in this town, where bands like Scandinavian Music Group and Quintessence have established a broad youth audience for this type of intense, acoustic and yet spacey soundscape.

Cause for much of the interest in "nu-jazz" can be laid at the door of trumpeter Kalevi Louhivuori's two colleagues, who also comprise the rhythm section of the Ilmiliekki Quartet. This band's combination of rhythmic intensity coupled with rich interplay between pianist Tuomo Prättilä and trumpeter Werneri Pohjola has exerted a musical mesmerism similar to that I recall in front of those guitar-led trios but now offered through an acoustic medium. Sun Trio has followed its predecessors both in winning the Young Nordic Jazz competition and in taking the same rhythmic and tonal varieties but offering them in a more intense format, with Kalevi Louhivuori extending the range of tones and textures beyond even those of Pohjola's palette.
That some of the pieces are reminiscent of Ilmiliekki's style is surely inevitable: three tracks on the new CD are written by the shared drummer, Kalevi's brother Olavi. And bassist Antii Lotjonen employs similar mellow tones as well as repeated runs and trades with his old partner in the back line. Out front the trumpet plays a more prominent role, typically using a "cleaner" style to lead the melody. However, it is obvious that Louhivuori shares with Pohjola an interest in exploring the further reaches of their instrument's color range.

Beginning with the tune serving as the title track on Time is Now (Cam Jazz, 2009), the trumpeter became engaged in an extended experimentation of partially blown and voiced soundings before moving on to an electronic texturing provided by a magic box at his feet. Here the horn was multi-tracked and overlaid with sheets of echo, at times seeming to wah-wah like those rock forerunners. While these sounds raise comparisons with fellow Nordic trumpeter Peter Molvaer, such a comparison represents only one corner of Louhivuori's tone palette. If further comparison with Miles Davis' Spanish Sketches invokes Picasso's angular visual imagery, then in his use of simplicity and sparseness Louhivuori and the Sun Trio might be said to approximate the style of British artist David Hockney. I just wonder if Sun Ra was also a painter...

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