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What would we do without those vinyl junkies? You know, those obsessed creatures that scour every record store, flea market, secondhand store and garage sale in hopes of finding some gem that has been lost in the mountain of recordings released over the last seventy years. Without them we would not have the pleasure of revisiting Eero Koivistoinen's fusion monster from Finland, Wahoo!.
For some time Wahoo! has been a jealously guarded secret of DJs and collectors. Jon Newey, in his Jazzwise review, states that only 600 copies of the original LP were pressed, and further claims that those originals can often be found for as much as $500. The UK-based reissue label Whatmusic has thankfully brought it to the masses, available with its original artwork on LP or CD-digipak.
Recorded in 1972 with a one-off group, Wahoo! more than measures up to its reputation by delivering an incendiary brew of 70s fusion. It is everything that fusion should have been: raw, electric chaos held together by in-the-pocket beats and a muscular low-end. The music does not fall prey to any of the pitfalls that sank so much of the 70s' over-intellectualized pseudo-funk (i.e. wimpy synthesizers, tricky time signatures played with technical rigor mortis and extended noodling). Moreover, the production catches all the rough edges and the mixing layers the meaty rhythms created by the set-up of two drummers, two bassists and two guitarists.
Every cut provides a different blueprint on how to construct a groove. The title track slow-funk grinds with excruciating pleasure. The musicians ping pong in a syncopated frenzy, teasing with deliciously choppy phrases. Koivistoinen, his soprano sax hooked up to a wah-wah, squeals in delight while guitarists Matti Kurkinen and Ilja Saastamoinen viciously slice up the rhythm.
The ten-minute "Suite 19" masterfully unfurls itself. The track opens with a loose ambience that calls forth the ghost of John Coltrane's "Spiritual" as Koivistoinen, again on distorted soprano sax, glides over Edward Vesala's restless percussion. The band shimmers along in minor key ecstasy that eventually settles into silence. Then the Fender bass sparks a beat, Sabu Martinez brings his congas to a boil, the Rhodes and guitars sear the air and Koivistoinen's sax lines melt all over the red-hot groove. Yet the whole fire is kept from blazing out of control by the airtight bass being laid down.
My adjectives and metaphors could also rage out of control praising Wahoo! , so maybe we should just thank Whatmusic and those vinyl junkies one more time for their public service. They have delivered to us a gritty, passionate set of fusion that should not be overlooked this time around.
Track Listing: 1.Hot C 2.7 UP 3.6 DOWN 4.Suite 19 5.Bells 6.Wahoo!
Personnel: Eero Koivistoinen-soprano sax, tenor sax, sopraninio sax Fender Rhodes-Olli Ahvenlahti (1,3,6), Esa Helasvuo (2,4), Esko Linnavalli(5) Matti Kurkinen, Ilja Saastamoinen-electric guitars Ilkka Willman, Heikki Virtanen-Fender bass Reino Laine, Esko Rosnell-drums Sabu Martinez, Edward Vesala-percussion Kaj Backlund-trumpet Juhani Aalto-trombone Juhani Aaltonen-alto sax, flute Unto Haapa-Aho-baritone sax, bass clarinet
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.