"I just want to give something back, says Petri Haussila, Finland's TUM Records founder and coordinator of TUMfest, a live label showcase presented for the third time this year. "What I really enjoy is releasing recordings by those people whom I have admired since I started appreciating jazz, who have offered me immense pleasure and satisfaction over the years. ...Basically, my efforts result from a fan's perspective, not a business person's perspective.
In a market increasingly saturated with independent labels, all claiming novelty, youth and innovation, Haussila's perspective is refreshing. His speech is as assured and flows with the same logic and enthusiasm as the music he releases. "I see a parallel between my label and an American label started by another lawyer, smiles Haussila. "If ESP was founded to document Albert Ayler, I started TUM to give Juhani Aaltonen the first albums to feature his own music in 20 years.
This multi-instrumentalist and composer's name is probably still unfamiliar to many US readers; this is unfortunate and to posit that Aaltonen possesses a unique voice is still to sell his work short. Haussila speaks of his playing as "reflecting all the sorrows and anguish of life, but also its glory. A veteran of groups involving fellow TUM stalwart Reggie Workman as well as a frequent collaborator of the late and still underrated Finnish percussionist and bandleader Edward Vesala, Aaltonen's approach to saxophone and flute is grounded in New Thing angst and release. Such stylistic appellation says nothing of the deep meditation, not to mention an absolutely formidable technique, that conjure vast landscapes of expression with a single perfectly shaped note. Mother Tongue
, his first release on TUM, boasts such a moment as "Nature Boy commences, the stratosphere beyond clearly visible even as the first note is reached. True, he can shriek and bellow with the best of the '60s veterans and he often does, but just as frequently, he reflects the ageless tranquility beneath life's travails and the results are beyond description or categorization.
Aaltonen's approach to his instruments may provide clues to an overarching TUM sound. The question of label aesthetic can prompt more empty words from over-enthusiastic rhetoricians, but all Haussila had to say was that he wanted the releases to sound as good and to be of as high a quality as possible. Yet, immersion in the TUM catalog exposes a staggering diversity of sonic approach, of orchestral array, from the contemplations of exploratory duos to to the musings of larger electronically augmented ensembles; the results often embrace as much history as they do timbre. Bassist Ulf Krokfors and keyboardist Iro Haarla's Penguin Beguine
dips into '70s fusion, the title track a wonderfully bottom-heavy hypnogroove with layers and washes of constantly morphing sound overtop, courtesy of what the TUM site simply labels "Haarla's different keyboards .
The more recent TUM releases bear similar stamps of concentration, of focused freedom. Low Blue Flame
, a duo disc from Andrew Cyrille and Greg Osby, speaks to both extreme compositional rigor and to what Cyrille sees as the long-standing traditions that foster improvisations in such frameworks. Low Blue Flame is just that, a slow-burning but scorchingly intense encyclopedia of what the duo can accomplish.
Contact with 20th century European music may have accounted, in part, for such dynamic diversity; it is a tempting proposition to examine geographical divides when coming to terms with the TUM catalog, as its roster comprises a growing number of Americans, but the Ilmiliekki Quartet's second offering, Take It With Me
, straddles the line between composition and improvisation with similarly intriguing dexterity. The stunning trumpet work of Verneri Pohjola drives the group into post-Bill Dixon territories, the space and pointillism associated with that veteran composer also evident, especially in the quietly epic "Askisto . Its achingly beautiful ballad-like refrain fragments into a huge vista of space, sparsely populated by breathily 'fluty' trumpet and vaguely non-Western percussion.