Trondheim presented its Finnish connection with the opposites of a heavy swirling electric trio and a bouncy lyrical acoustic trio. The Finnish connection was personalized by young power drummer Ilmari Heikinheimo, an exchange student at Trondheim jazz line, who is part of Triad of Finnish electric guitar vedette Raoul Bjorkenheim
's together with raucous bassist Ville Rauhala
. Triad played a boisterous kind of Finnish orientalism, as recorded on its latest album Beyond
(Eclipse Music), something in between The Thing, Turkish psychedelics, North African gnawa pulses and agitated string speeding. The musicians might have absorbed from mentioned sources but evidently do not play or combine it consciously. They produce fabrics that might evoke those, as well as other associations and projections by listeners. The highly energizing threesome steadily and wildly shaved its way into its very own sonic thicket, taking no prisoners.
The acoustic side was represented by the bouncing and lyrical Kari Ikonen
trio with bassist bassist Olli Rantala
and drummer Markku Ounaskari
. Pianist Kari Ikonen is the main composer of the group's material. As a piano trio it has its very own vivid characteristics not minimalizing or extending into spherical spaces. They presented music from its just released (programmatic) third album Wind, Frost & Radiation
(Ozella Music). Just like climate, with its (sometimes) rapid changes between serenity, harshness and violence, the unit developed similar shifts and transitions from witty nuclei, alert rhythmical alternations yielding a vivid overall structure. Fast, forward driving and cascading, the music sought its way like water through rocky crevices, regularly creating mirroring pools and quietly overflowing places. Ounaskari was revealed as a master drummer who can manage these shifts of intensity as a continuous undercurrent in dynamic ways. Olli Rantala, on the other hand, was revealed as a secret weapon with his economical pizzicato and the timely sublime beauty of his bowing identifiable as a creative outgrowth of his studies with superb Swedish bassist Anders Jormin from Gothenburg. It was a captivating performance, full of drive and surprise, terminating with a beautiful rendition of the "Waltz" theme from the Masquerade Suite written by of Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) in 1941.
Besides the French and Finnish connection Trondheim has a strong connection to, and exchange with, Birmingham/Cheltenham in the UK. Six students from the Birmingham Conservatory met six students of the Trondheim NTNU jazz line and elaborated on a common performance in three combinations, first at the Cheltenham jazz festival end of April, and then as a follow-up at Trondheim Jazzfest. Here are the three ensembles (predominantly men): Ensemble 1: Magnus Skaug (g), Christos Stylianides (tr), Oliver Stanton, Christian Cuadra (sax), Elias Østrem Tafjord (dr) Ensemble 2: Georgia Wartel Collins (b), Ask Morris Rasmussen (sax), Aidan Pope (g), Charlie Johnson (dr), Ensemble 3: Vilde Aakre Lie (voc), Håvard Aufles (p), Harry Weir (sax), Shivraj Matwala (b). The students had remarkable chops, showed stylistic versatility and the vast majority were good at ensemble work. Most significant were the loose and creative use of popular styles and the frugal singing of vocalist Vilde Aakre Lie. Trondheim harbors mainly Scandinavian students and there is longer lasting co-operation with UK now for a while. For the first time I met a regular (drum) student from Germany, and it seems that even Amsterdam conservatory is reconsidering its scholastic conception in favor of more creativity, fostered among others by exchange with Trondheim.