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Juhani Aaltonen: To Future Memories

Dan McClenaghan By

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Juhani Aaltonen: To Future Memories Helsinki-based TUM Records, launched in 2003, "promotes more experienced musicians whose work is not favored by commercial trends of our time." The label is especially supportive of the freer end of jazz's spectrum, offering up albums like Kolibri by Finish pianist/harpist Iro Haarla, violinist Billy Bang's Da Bang, and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's Occupy the World, to name just a few of the label's adventurous 2013 offerings.

Finnish saxophonist/flutist Juhani Aaltonen (b. 1935) , who cites saxophonist John Coltrane as a seminal influence—though he has developed his own very distinctive style—is one of those experienced musicians who doesn't fit in with the popular trends. He opens TUM Records' 2014 CD release schedule with To Future Memories, featuring his regular quartet, beefed up to sextet with an additional bassist and percussionist, to give a denser, more layered rhythmic foundation upon which the players can improvise.

Subtitled The Music of Antti Hyatti, this disc is Aaltonen's chance to explore his fellow countryman Hyatti's tunes—most of them written for film and theater—with a respectful depth and a vibrant sense of improvisation. The result—perhaps it's a Finnish thing—is a set that is filled with melancholy, and stories from, perhaps, a somber and introspective side of life. "Reminiscence," the opening tune, features Aaltonen in an anguished frame of mind, his tenor sax wailing as pianist Iro Haarla lays down spare notes with perfect placement inside the loosely woven web of the tapestry of the two basses, drums and percussion.

"Kukunor," featuring Aaltonen on flute, sounding like a pastoral haunting, spirits in the forest, perhaps, while "Hilsi" finds the leader riding the ripples of a gentle bass/drum/percussion disturbance on bass flute. "All the Birds," features a gorgeous piano intro from Haarla, before Aalton enters on a raw-toned tenor. It's a sound that has the feeling of those birds flying lugubriously under a leaden sky, with darkness on a cold winter day not far off.

Aaltonen, with over a half century of music making under his belt—and a leader on five TUM Records sets—has crafted an extraordinary set of distinctive and oddly beautiful music with To Future Memories. He and his band sound like nobody else out there.


Track Listing: Reminiscence; Kukunor; To Future Memories; Hilsi; Ursala; All the Birds; Haze.

Personnel: Juhani Aaltonen: tenor saxophone, flute, bass flute; Iro Haarla: piano, harp; Ulf Krokfors: bass; Ville Herrala: bass; Reino Laine: drums; Tatu Ronkko: percussion.

Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: TUM Records | Style: Modern Jazz


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