Mika Pohjola is a man of many talents. He runs the New York-based Blue Music Group
"the small label with big music." He has collaborated on albums of religious and traditional Finnish, Swedish music, given classical recitals, accompanied vocalists Jill Walsh and Johanna Grussner
and gigged with diverse jazz aggregations.
It would be a shame if any of this got in the way of his achievement with this album, which presents him with a chance to stand up and be counted as one of the most gifted jazz pianists of his generation.
Playing in the Bill Evans tradition, Pohjola constructs gently swinging, melodic improvisations that are sheer delight; thought- provoking and adventurous. What's on offer is 50 minutes of great music, recorded in two sessions, with no second takes and no over- dubbing. Just creativity of the highest order.
The young Finn has been hailed by Downbeat
as "a stylist who possesses enormous chops" and has been praised by Gary Giddins, in The Village Voice
for his "substantial improvisations." Yet he's still not exactly a household name among jazz fans. Perhaps because hitherto he has spread his talents too thinly and in too many different directions.
Influenced by his father's record collection, which he says introduced him to jazz, Pohjola works here well within the jazz mainstream, his repertoire comprising compositions by Dizzy Gillespie
, George Shearing, Dave Brubeck
, Duke Ellington
, Bill Evans
(of course) andno of course
about thisthat under-rated master of melody of the Swing Era, Jimmy Dorsey
Sadly, there's an element of past tense about Trio Hour
. Pohjola played with Dan Loomis (bass) and Kyle Struve (drums) on a regular weekly basis at his studio on East 14th Street in Manhattan from 2005 until 2009. The numbers here were recorded in 2007; the first four in January, followed by "Turn Out The Stars" and "I'm So Glad There Is You" two months later. Pohjola mixed and mastered the tapes in May 2013.
Regular playing with the trio resulted in what he calls "confidence in the unknown." His aim was spontaneity. He says: "The set list was decided on the recording days, and there was no pre-planning, rehearsal, or arrangement of the songs."
Surely, thisif anythingis what jazz is all about. It's to be hoped the trio will get back together again soon.