Preeminent Finnish saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen is approaching his 80th birthday and continues to meld his technical artistry with fresh concepts. This album features compositions by composer and bassist Antti Hytti, who penned many of these works for movies and short films, featuring the saxophonist performing on the originals.
Aaltonen alternates between tenor sax and flutes. With his noteworthy associates, including the dual bass attack of Ulf Krokfors (right channel) and Ville Herrala (left channel), the music takes on a broader and perhaps more fluid bottom than what would be considered the norm. Thus, many of these works are designed with gravitating storylines that are meticulously instituted via cascading plots and explosive crescendos. For instance on "Kukunor," Aaltonen's soul- searching flute lines cast a graceful and ambient foreground atop pianist Iro Haarla's deft voicings, where the band takes gradual steps towards an imposing zenith, engrained within an asymmetrical pulse and free-form soloing.
Several movements project a mystical aura, even when the musicians delve into the red-zone. On pieces such as "Hiisi," an air of the unknown prevails, especially due to the bassists' solemn arco notes. But Aaltonen opens the soundstage via bubbly improvisation dialogues, and his use of multiphonics on the flute instills an avant- garde edge, leading to surging grooves and descent into a somber finale. With "All The Birds," the ensemble generates a flourishing storyline, as Aaltonen's intricate sax maneuvers and muscular exchanges with Haarla are a tad reminiscent of latter-day John Coltrane's soaring treks into the cosmos. Indeed, Aaltonen is a grandmaster whose visionary tendencies continue to stretch boundaries and stimulate the psyche along the way.
Track Listing: Reminiscence; Kukunor; To Future Memories; Hilsi; Ursala; All the
Personnel: Juhani Aaltonen: tenor saxophone, flute, bass flute; Iro Haarla:
piano,harp; Ulf Krokfors: bass; Ville Herrala: bass; Reino Laine:
drums; Tatu Ronkko: percussion.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.