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Verneri Pohjola: The Dead Don't Dream

Ian Patterson By

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Verneri Pohjola: The Dead Don't Dream
The photo on the front cover shows a levitating Verneri Pohjola. A rising star? That tag might have been appropriate at the time of Aurora (ACT Music, 2009), but the brilliant subsequent albums Bullhorn (2015) and Pekka (2017), both on Edition Records, confirmed the Finnish trumpeter's arrival at the top table of European jazz. Pohjola's distinctive tone—lyrical yet with a visceral edge—and his melodic improvisations and compositional flare are common to all his albums, though no two sound the same. The Dead Don't Dream continues the evolution, with perhaps more emphasis on a collective sound, and soloing that plays second fiddle to atmospheric construction.

The album starts on a high-note with "Monograph," where the subtleties of Tuomo Prattala's faint electronics and spare piano contrast with a cantering groove and Pohjola's robust lines. In Mika Kallio's metallic percussion and washing cymbals, and in Antti Lotjonen' earthy bass, which underpin this seductive opener, there are perhaps echoes of the evocative, percolating rhythms of Santana's "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts," or "Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation." A restless energy pervades "Wilder Brother," whose fluctuating grooves frame solos by Pohjola, Prättälä and soprano saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen that are striking in their individuality.

A piano pattern of funereal sombreness announces "Voices Heard," with ghostly bass and drums barely audible beneath Pohjola's questing solo. A sudden lowering of the flame ushers in a dream-like passage—guided by piano and trumpet—of austere impressionism. There's a more open-ended feel to "The Conversationalist," a Wayne Shorter-esque meditation, where staccato piano steps, quietly probing bass and fluttering brushes accompany Pohjola's lyrical, yet assertive solo. On the quietly majestic title track, spare rhythms, soft gongs, and pedal steel guitarist Miikka Paatelainen's gossamer textures provide the canvas for finely weighted solos from Pohjola and Prättälä.

Whether intentional or not, the baroque piano intro to "Agirro," played adagio on damped strings, conjures Hector Berlioz's "Dream of a Witches' Sabbath." Lötjönen's free- flowing bass contrasts sharply with Prättälä's processional rhythm, while Pohjola's hymnal melody melts into improvised monologue against a backdrop of hazy electronic drone. The brushes-driven "Suspended" is a hypnotic fusion of insistent pulse, silvery pedal steel guitar and the leader's plaintive melodic lines. The architecture may be spare, but the intersections of lines, textures and colors, fashion both elegance and emotive weight.

With The Dead Don't Dream Pohjola meets the expectations of quality by now associated with him. By any standards this is a fine album. But it is the unexpected topography of these compositions that is most rewarding; the twists and turns, rises, and falls, the little plateaus of beauty and abstraction, and the intriguing subplots. Pohjola takes us on a journey—a seductive dreamscape—that reveals more of its beguiling details with each listen.

Track Listing

Monograph; Wilder Brother; Voices Heard; The Conversationalist; The Dead Don’t Dream; Argirro; Suspended.

Personnel

Verneri Pohjola: trumpet; Antti Lotjonen: bass, acoustic; Mika Kallio: drums; Tuomo Prattala: piano.

Tuomo Prattala: electronics; Pauli Lyytinen; soprano saxophone (2), tenor saxophone (7); Miikka Paatelainen: pedal steel guitar (1, 5, 7).

Album information

Title: The Dead Don't Dream | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Edition Records

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