A good example of the breadth and the wonder of jazz is the world of difference that exists in the music, even in a small country like Finland. Specifically, the Five Corners Quintet
inhabits an entirely different planet than the Ilmiliekki Quartet as represented by March of the Alpha Males
(TUM, 2003) and Take It With Me
, yet they know each other, the band members interact in other groups (bassist Antti Lötjönen plays in both ) and they are both very popular.
If the Five Corners Quintet represents the extroverted, rhythm-driven, blowing, feel good side of jazz, Ilmiliekki exists on the introverted, intellectual, personally emotional and compositional side. This is a very conscious decision, because while they can burn (see "ICO" on March Of The Alpha Males
or "Karhu" on Take It With Me
), they most often choose not to.
Trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, who ostensibly leads Ilmiliekki, writes about the group's aesthetic in the notes to both albums. On March Of The Alpha Males
, he writes of the band's feeling that expressing themselves in music called jazz would be too limiting so they "willfully broke some rules set for traditional jazz expression" in their attempt to avoid being labeled or pigeonholed. The reality is that jazz has no rules and all the hubbub that came with March Of The Alpha Males
about genre breaking was a bit overblown, especially when it is viewed from, say, the ECM perspective.
Pohjola speaks about creating music that is "rich with feeling and melodies that carry across musical categories" and expressing themselves through "meditative improvisation," creating music that is "impressionistic or even romantic." On Take It With Me
, he extends these thoughts by saying that they wish to "tell stories through our music" as singers do, but without words.
This Ilmiliekki does very well, and indeed, the effort taken to carefully craft both the originals and the specific covers on the former album is redoubled on Take It With Me
. The result is entrancing music, but the listener must be prepared for a slower pace where the music takes its time to develop. When they played at Dizzy's Club
, one could feel the audience getting edgy with this introspective, slowly unwinding music and breathing a sigh of relief when the faster "Karhu" was played.
Yes, Pohjola can sound like Tomasz Stanko
, but there is not a hint of mere copying in what is created and yes, the overall vibe is very ECM, but that might be a good thing. However, tracks like "Askisto," "Kanava" and "Hatchi," which happen to be the three longest tracks, and take up half the album, submerge the listener in their sheer beauty, interesting structures and deep emotions, making for a richly rewarding listening experience. Take It With Me
is a marvelous album no matter how it is (unnecessarily) labeled. Highly recommended.