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The Five Corners Quintet at Dizzy's Club-Coca Cola

Budd Kopman By

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The Five Corners Quintet
Dizzy's Club-Coca Cola
New York City
June 11, 2007

During the Spring at Dizzy's Club, Monday nights are generally set aside for program called Upstarts!, and on this night the music and band were from Finland.

The Five Corners Quintet comes with the mission of bringing jazz to a new, young audience, getting them physically moving, even dancing. Their jazz style of choice is from the golden age of hard bop, especially drummer-leader Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, with some of the intensity of a trumpeter like Woody Shaw thrown in.

Make no mistake, though—TFCQ is a top-notch band, and the players were one hundred percent inside the style. Far from being a tired copy of Blakey's immediately recognizable style, the band sounded fresh, alive and aiming to please.

Driven by the high energy and obvious joy of drummer Teppo Mäkynen, with the solid support of bassist Antti Lötjönen and pianist Mikael Jakobsson, the front line of trumpeter/flugelhornist Jukka Eskola and saxophonist Timo Lassy could fly anywhere they pleased. The arrangements added just the right amount of structure to keep the set from becoming a mere blowing session.

It is noteworthy that the hard bop style has been chosen by TFCQ to introduce jazz to new audiences. In the Swing Era, jazz was the popular music: it was everywhere and people danced to the bands. Bebop was the reaction by musicians wishing to have more freedom to improvise and to be considered artists rather than just entertainers. Dancing stopped, and the image of jazz as an insider's cerebral music began. Then came hard bop as a reaction to bebop, with rhythms designed to move the pendulum away from the head and back to the body.

Twenty years later, or in the early 1980s, hard bop was resurrected by Wynton Marsalis and the young lions of jazz as the reaction to fusion and furthermore was promoted as "real jazz" (but that is another story). Now, another twenty years later, TFCQ is using the same style to expand the jazz audience.

Doing this is fine, because the style still elicits goose bumps even from jazz lovers who have five hundred Blue Note records. It works because TFCQ loves this music and presents it in a very fresh manner, inviting the audience to come along for the joy ride, and come along they did, even a sophisticated New York City audience.

This listener was smiling from ear to ear for the entire set. While the argument can easily be made that creative improvised music (a phrase that avoids the connotations of the word "jazz") does not and should not stand pat or look backwards, the resulting music can still be an art that speaks more to the mind and less to the body.

The music of TFCQ is most definitely body music, and it feels very, very good. It is also very happy and provides a strong emotional, even cathartic, release. This is jazz that, if not on the cutting edge of creativity, serves a purpose beyond mere entertainment, and that is a good thing. It is no surprise that TFCQ can bring one thousand people to their feet and have them dancing.

Personnel: Jukka Eskola: trumpet; Timo Lassy: baritone/tenor saxophonist; Mikael Jakobsson: piano; Antti Lötjönen: bass; Teppo "Teddy Rok" Mäkynen: drums.

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