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Tampere Jazz Happening 2014

Henning Bolte By

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Bassist Jori Huhtala (1984) is a member of Raoul Björkenheim's Ecstasy with saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen and drummer Markku Ounaskari, as well as the Big Blue quartet with Jorma Kalevi Louhivuori on trumpet, Antti Kujanpää on piano, and Joonas Leppänen on drums. The first album of his quintet, featuring saxophonists Mikko Innanen and Joakim Berghäll, pianist Aki Rissanen, and drummer Ville Pynssi, will be released on the Fredriksson Label in early 2015. For this concert young pianist Artturi Rönkä was subbing for much sought-after Aki Rissanen and he proved to be a notable talent. The group played a highly respectable set with lucid arrangements and a remarkable connection of melodics in a boppish framework. Teppo Mäkynen (1974) is an elegant drummer and a remarkable musician on the Finnish scene. His octet Teddy's West Coaster with Jukka Perko (as), Ville Vannemaa, Jukka Eskola, Mikko Karjalainen (tr), Heikki Tuhkanen (tromb), Miika Jämsä (tuba), and Ville Herrala (b) has an almost exotic appeal. Mäkynen built a professional identity as a drummer, a dj, a bandleader, and a producer. His electronic qualities were first heard in guitarist Jarmo Saari's Reuna where Mäkynen both scratched and played the drums. As a dj he performed with the band So So by and with the Don Johnson Big Band. Mäkynen worked as a dj as Teddy Rok and with Teddy Rok Seven as a band. Mäkynen also took part in Nuspirit Helsinki and later on in The Five Corners Quintet. The Five Corners Quintet performed classic groove jazz from the 1950s and 1960s. Their debut album (2005) sold more than 40,000 copies in 1,5 years. Now he has arrived at 1950s and 1960s West Coast Jazz with his new octet where he---like his Copenhagen colleague Snorre Kirk—is reviving the virtues of old swing drummers as Jimmy Crawford from Memphis, Tennessee. It was quite wondrous to experience the elegant sound and swing of the group and see how highly infectious and joyful it worked for the young audience packed in the Telakka venue. The audience and octet became a synched organism.

The second night brought three Finnish configurations: Saxophonist Esa Pietilä's Liberty Ship, the trio of guitarist Teemu Viinikainen, and the new electronic group of drummer Mikko Hassinen.

Saxophonist Esa Pietilä is an avid sailor and his Liberty Ship a Finnish super group gathering much sought-after pianist Aki Rissanen, bassist Antti Lotjonen and internationally well-known drummer Olavi Louhivuori (he plays in groups of Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen and the Scandinavian quintet of Polish trumpet legend Tomasz Stanko). The quartet formed in 2012 navigates the waters of free jazz and improvised music, moving along unexplored passages of their own choice and challenge. One year ago the group released its double album Approaching on the profiled Edition label, with a collection of 'loose compositions' in the first part, and a completely improvised second part. It indicates a great potential of music created 'in the moment,' that bore out at their Telakka set in a fully captivating way. The musicians set their sails high, mastered the falling winds, and opened vivid panoramas.

Teemu Viinikainen Trio played an energetic as well as spacy and grounded set with a classical jazz guitar sound at the centre. It is a strong versatile trio (witness its recent album Hit it! (Prophone Records, 2014). Guitarist Teemu Viinikainen is a rock-solid musician with an impressive discography and range of participation in the Finnish scene, who has already received some international appreciation. The trio's drummer Mikko Kallio, playing his personalized drum kit, participated in two other ensembles at the festival (percussion trio Kallio Slaaki and Mikko Innanen 10+) as did strikingly robust bassist Ville Herrala (Teddy's Westcoasters and Mikko Innanen 10+). Elektro GT is a new group of drummer Mikko Hassinen, with a heavy load of electronics, gathering trumpeter Jorma Kalevi Louhivuori, the ubiquitous Aki Rissanen on keyboards, guitarist Varre Vartiainen, and bassist Lauri Porra. They served a deliciously spiced and uplifting electronic soup at Telakka, also proven by its recent self-titled debut album on Texicalli Records.

Saturday

The afternoon presented three groups: the British Sons of Kemet, the all-Norwegian quartet of saxophonist Karl Seglem and the Beloved trio of British pianist Django Bates. Reedist Shabaka Hutchings's band Sons of Kemet with two drummers, Mark Sanders and Sebastian Rochford, and Chris Barrett as a tuba player. Sons Of Kemet's debut album Burn (Proper, 2013), with Oren Marshall on tuba and Tom Skinner as first drummer, draws from the musical Bermuda Triangle that stretches from Ethiopia to New Orleans (Hutchings among others has played in the Heliocentrics and The Step Ahead Band of Mulato Astatke). The Nile and the Caribbean, the Jamaican Nyabinghi drumming, and the Jamaican musicians Count Ossie and Cedric 'Im' Brooks all are references and sources of its music. Sons Of Kemet has been plagued by frequent line-up changes that impeded the development of their live rendition after a brilliant start. Drummer Mark Sanders was an adequate and strong choice for one of Kemet's drum chairs, but nonetheless the music remained a bit too uniform in the Walk Like An Egyptian mode.

Saxophonist Karl Seglem is a long-standing, non-extravagant force in Norwegian music, who returned to his folk roots with his last album NyeSongar.no (Ozella Music, 2013) which was recorded with the renowned Norwegian Eple trio of pianist Andreas Ulvo, bassist Sigurd Hole, and drummer and visual artist Jonas Howden Sjøvaag. In Tampere, accomplished bassist Roger Arntzen was subbing for Hole. Seglem and the group performed clearly focused and full of beauty, calmly working towards a wonderful apotheosis in the last piece with its overwhelming, melodic richness and colour. It light-heartedly led to deeper concentration.

Beloved /bee-love-it/ is a musical configuration of a special kind. Pianist Django Bates resorts to his earliest conscious influences: the music of Charlie Parker. This early experience has been reworked together with two younger musicians, especially in terms of dynamics and melodic colour. The musical partnership with Danish drummer Peter Bruun and bassist Petter Eldh was a result of finding them, by being ready and open on a deeper level, not by consciously searching and selecting. Bruun and Eldh struck a chord when Bates heard them playing by accident when passing their rehearsal room at the Rhythmical Music Conservatory in Copenhagen. Playing together unprepared confirmed his first impression of Bruun's impressionistic way of drumming and Eldh's drummer-like and percussionist way of bass playing combined with short melodic motifs. Their direct mutual rapport allowed them to focus on developing the dynamic finesses of the music. After that, and as a consequence of their first gig at Copenhagen Jazzhouse with Evan Parker, a real piano trio became a fact. Nonetheless this configuration is primarily defined and perceived by the special musical approach and musical personalities, and not its format. It is exactly that what makes Beloved one of the best piano trios today.

The piano trio is the supreme discipline in jazz. Through rich possibilities, it functions as a strong filter sifting out those few who were and are able to set new standards. What matters is how the three instrumental vertices relate to each other dynamically, harmonically, and sound-wise, to build something coherent, in close dependency. Eventually, each shift at one vertex inevitably triggers shifts by the other two. Letting the song sing itself is at the core of the piano trio. Connecting a diversity of songs in a gripping way is the highest achievement.

Right from the start the trio's reworking of Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes" made clear, literally, how the wind blows. It was the dynamics of spreading the basic line and overtones, letting it unite or evade each other. This was elaborated very sophisticatedly in Parker pieces and their own compositions (among others "Donna Lee," "Sadness All The Way Down," "Star Eyes," "Pianist As Promised,"" Confirmation,"" Alicia") in lightning-fast, irregular movements and salmon leaps, thereby transcending the played notes. It was fascinating how all three musicians expanded the sound by their well-dosed own singing voices as well as special keyboard and kalimba ingredients. The tight conjunction and attuning of these characteristics, the intertwining of steady and elusive, dense and open, was just stunning and Beloved's appearance undoubtedly a highlight of the festival! Having experienced that, the richness of Parker's work, it also is a bit wondrous that Parker, who is considered one of the greats and a key jazz musician, is performed so little.

The night programme had again 4 contrasting shows to offer: Mathias Eick 5, ICP Orchestra, Bill Frisell's Space Age Guitars, and Linton Kwesi Johnson together with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band.

The double drum quintet of Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick with pianist Andreas Ulvo, Audun Erlien on electric bass guitar, and Gard Nilssen and Torstein Lofthus on drums, opened the evening part of the program. Ulvo already played with Karl Seglem that same day and Lofthus with Elephant 9 during the opening night of the festival. The double drums and electric bass empowered the chanting melodies, providing the right pressure and open space and saving them from becoming sweet. As ever it was a strong, joyful affair to be immersed in Eick's music played very loudly but with full dynamics nonetheless. It appeared to be last performance of the group with ubiquitous Norwegian drummer Gard Nilssen (who had arrived in Tampere from Istanbul). As a thank-you and goodbye the group ended with its piece "Oslo" as a smoking flag.

The Instant Composers' Pool Orchestra (ICP) from Amsterdam has been around for quite a while. Founded in 1967 by pianist Misha Mengelberg, reedist Willem Breuker, and drummer Han Bennink, it soon developed as Mengelberg's child whereas Breuker installed his Kollektief. Breuker passed away in 2010 and Mengelberg had to retreat from playing and traveling last year, whereas Bennink is in full action still. Its line-up has been quite stable during the last 15, 20 years: Michael Moore (cl, as), Ab Baars (cl, ts), Tobias Delius (cl, ts), Wolter Wierbos (tromb), Thomas Heberer (cornet), Mary Oliver (vln, viola, voc), Tristan Honsinger (vlc, voc), Ernst Glerum (b), Han Bennink (dr, voc). Now it is a new challenge for the present ICP instalment to go on with its still existing high potential, and to find its way and shape.

ICP's Tampere appearance was amazingly compact and vital. Starting from an energizing propelling and clearing Sun Ra cacophony, the orchestra rushed into and slid through Brook Bowman's "East Of The Sun, West of The Moon," also the title of their recent album and full of salutes and allusions to ICP's founding father. The bunch worked through "Rebus Knebus," "Een Beetje Zenuwachtig," "The Mooche," finishing with a great combo of Sean Bergin "Lavoro" with Count Basie's "Moten Swing," a kwela-imbued tribute to another Amsterdam musician who passed away recently. There was a lot of looseness and short spontaneous action, but heavy instant composing, no. Cellist Honsinger gave a sample of honsinging, hongesticulating, honjumping and honfalling ICP-conduction in "Een Beetje Zenuwachtig" ("A Bit Nervous"). Last but not least, clearly visible and clearly experienceable: Uri Caine was at the piano (for the first time) fitting in effortlessly, heartfelt and driven by fun!
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