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Tampere Jazz Happening 2013

John Ephland By

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The second night of TJH opened with the Finnish/Greek quintet Timo Lassy Band for the festival's first performance in the all-seats Old Customs House Hall. It served as the initial offering to a night filled with studied contrasts to the previous night's music: slightly odd and/or experimental vibes followed by an idiosyncratic return to convention. Tenorist Lassy led his band through a heartfelt if familiar return to jazz's hard-bop spirit in what would be the festival's most overt nod to a mid-century jazz. Following Lassy's set harpist Edmar Castaneda's quartet of Columbian and American musicians was also a chops-laden affair, Marshall Gilkes' trombone the clear balancing voice in this reinvented approach to improvisation. Aggressive, robust, melodic, this group was about reshaping the landscape of what a solo instrument can do. Emphasis was on unusual time signatures, the band avoiding a natural tendency to be dreamy, Castaneda's proficiency on harp a marvel to behold and hear, full of energy and life, the music's formulaic approaches laced with Latin American folk elements and masked by some dazzling virtuosity and tight arrangements.

Across the plaza at Telakka, the Finnish guitar duo of Kamarainen & Viinikainen took elements of flamenco with many classical overtones in what was yet another departure from "jazz." At times reminiscent of Larry Coryell's 1970s and '80s work with Steve Khan, this full house was treated to a kind of transposition of guitar playing sometimes heard in the context of larger ensembles not to mention symphony orchestra. Not just for guitar lovers.

Back at the Old Customs House Hall, the American band Medeski, Martin & Wood dished up some of their standard fare of groove-based material, staying (and not straying) with successful, tried-and-true takes of their so- called jam-band music. Alternately at Telakka—and following the eclecticism of keyboardist Seppo Kantonen's Finnish colorful Finnish septet Kantonen Camping, with reed player Mikko Innanen—audiences heard a variation on MM&W, one also tethered to a groove, this time, however, more sedate, more flowing with tunes in meters like 6, 5, others. It was a midnight set of the Finnish quintet Lightboxer, a band of young guns refined and featuring saxophonist Markus Holkko, Hammond B3 organist Emil Luukkonen, and guitarist Aki Haarala. With overlapping styles, these two funk bands mirrored (as opposed to contrasted) two takes from two generations from two continents.

The second night of TJH once again ended on the main floor of Klubi (the main floor always ready to receive dancers and all-around movers and shakers) with Mali's Bassekou Kouyate. As was to be case all four nights at this site, ngoni string player Bassekou Kouyate's septet delivered a more heated mix of music, this energetic troupe of string players, electric bass and percussion, spearheaded by the soaring vocals of wife Amy Sacko and Kouyate's chops. Evoking classic West African give-and-take energy and loaded with a boatload of dance rhythms, this upbeat music was the perfect ending to an evening filled with equivocation. Propulsive, driving, the band and its tight arrangements could be like a James Brown ensemble, full of life, at their best when turning tradition on its head.

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