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We Jazz for your pleasure!

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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The only thing tying the music on the different albums together are the meticulous production values; sound and physical appearance of the product are treated with as much care as the music itself – making each record a special work of art
Finland-based label We Jazz records is fast building a reputation for being one of Europe's top quality outlet for contemporary jazz. Only a rather small selection of records is released a year, though each one to great critical acclaim. The only thing tying the music on the different albums together are the meticulous production values; sound and physical appearance of the product are treated with as much care as the music itself— making each record a special work of art. With such a steadiness of high quality on display, one would like to attribute it to many years of experience. In truth however, just ten years ago We Jazz was only the name of a club night in Finland's capital, Helsinki. Founded by the master minds producer Matti Nives and saxophonist Timo Lassy, it first turned into a festival in 2013 before developing into a label in 2016. Since then they've released more than a dozen of intricately crafted records by a variety of Finnish talents. Opposite to many other labels, the music We Jazz publishes obeys neither to specific musical parameters nor to any superordinate style. From acoustic to electronic, Bop-colored to hip hop-infused— even minimal techno soundscapes make it into the colorful blend of musical approaches that have a knack for experimentation and the love for detail in common. Following in the footsteps of exceptional 2019 releases With Ralph Alessi by Terkel Noorgard and Finnish super group Ilmilekki Quartet's Land of Real Men, the three albums discussed here reveal themselves to be treasures that are just as deserving of your attention.

Bowman Trio
Persistence
We Jazz Records
2019

The trio's sophomore outing for the label (their debut having been the first record ever published on We Jazz records) reveals a mature sound that is made up of catchy melodies and quirky interplay, rightfully claiming the genre-description "loft jazz." Not to be confused with Lounge Jazz Muzak however! The minimalist approach on display is treated with much love for the wee little details, sound-wise as well as compositionally. Simple structures find the trumpet effortlessly howling out breezy melodies to a rhythm section that colors in the trumpet-less measures with gusto. A more contemplative intonation makes room for soaring brass lines and a melodious bass monologue on compositions such as "Badwater," while the drums' stop-and-go formula is at its most expressive when alternating between swinging sections, as displayed on "Mä En Jaksa." A bass-less duo session casts snake charms on "Willows outro" which sees its wacky atmosphere further substantiated by a drop-in sound-quality—the low-fi filter demonstrating the extent to which this record is through-designed. But not everything about this album is somehow bizarre. The focus always remains on the music, which is exquisitely performed through and through. Bouncing "The Chase" would get any party started, while the jazz enthusiast will feel a smirk creeping up when the walking bass line drops and the trumpet goes on a short yet poignant exploration that is reminiscent of Dizzy Gillespie. Highly recommended for easy-listening and a good time.

3TM
Lake
We Jazz Records
2019

The musical scope of Lake is nothing other than ambitious. Electronic soundscapes frame a core trio made up of Teppo Mäkynen on drums, Jussi Kannaste on tenor sax and Antti Lötjönen on double bass. The nature of the music moves through different stages, from atmospheric ("Seven Keys") over jam-heavy ("Lake") to rhythmically driven and melodically intricate ("A Pile of Broken Dreams"). A sense of minimalism is prevalent throughout, yet the widely varying range of instrumentation negates the minimalistic core to create a tense ambiance. Often a song will start out with electronic loops that fast become an acoustic trio session, before fat synth waves take over to form a sort of epilogue. The added sonic landscapes and percussive layers aren't always purely electronic. The composer and brain behind the operation, Mäkynen, adds piano coloration as well as acoustic percussions such as claves. The sonic production is as transparent as imaginable and elevates the reciprocity of electronic manipulations and acoustic group play to a virtuoso level. The fact that these musicians have mastered what they had set out to create becomes clearest towards the end, when the longest and most complex composition on the record ("Suburban Portraits") goes full circle, making a full transformation that starts with soundscapes, then goes from a purely acoustic setting to full on electronic, ending up in the intriguing minimal techno exercise "Model Two." At one particular moment towards the end of "Suburban Portraits" the acoustic music slowly mends together with the electronic side of things. A syncopated saxophone pattern is picked up on electronic percussions, not only in a rhythmic but also melodic way—thereby not only confirming, that the transformation is complete, but also that the two musical worlds are very close relatives, if not essentially one and the same. The catchy synthesis between the electronic and acoustic approaches reveals slightly reminiscent of what Radiohead's Thome York has been doing for a couple of years now, though mastered in an even purer form. Chapeau!

Koma Saxo
Koma Saxo
We Jazz Records
2019

Koma Saxo is the conglomeration of some of Finland's most experimental musical minds today and the music they have created together sounds accordingly. But what could have ended up as an unlistenable, arbitrary stacking of scales, notes, sounds and effects has turned out to be the opposite—a highly appealing and catchy collection of sketches and grooves that make for a complete set of compact tunes. The music on display is highly beat-concentric—free-sections as demonstrated in "Ostron Koma" are rare and short and merely emphasize the coherent stringency of the music. Three saxophones are employed carefully and poignantly across the measures, so that they never fill the sonic image to exhaustion. Straight forward yet original drumbeats create tense grooves in interplay with tight basslines and bring the same amount of hip hop-immediacy and -heaviness to the table as they do the spontaneity found in jazz. Only one composition runs longer than four minutes, while the rest vary from couple dozen second exhibitions ("Sport Koma") to idea-packed songs like "Koma Tema" which go through several melodic ideas, rhythms and time-measures in the matter of only a couple of minutes— thereby never overstaying their welcome in the slightest. Koma Saxo is densely filled with original ideas and would make for a perfect sample-bank for any hip-hop artist. People not so drawn to hip-hop music however may gasp of relief and be happy that this music is presented exactly as it is: Rhymelessly symmetrical and wordlessly lyrical—all the while intriguing and fun from beginning to end.

Tracks and Personnel

Persistence

Tracks: Willows Intro; Persistence; Badwater; Mä En Jaksa; Willows Outro; The Chase; My Horse; Mac Elliot; Sista Sommardagen.

Personnel: Sami Nummela: drums; Tomi Nikku: trumpet; Joonas Tuuri: bass.

Lake

Tracks: Seven Keys; Lake; A Pile Of Broken Dreams; Woods Contrail; Laws Of Life; World Loop; Suburban Portraits; Model Two.

Personnel: Teppo Mäkynen: drums & sounds; Just Kannaste: saxophone; Antti Lötjönen: bass.

Koma Saxo

Tracks: Kali Koma; Ostron Koma; Cyclops Dance; Byågz; Koma Tema; Blumer; Fanfarum for Komarum II; Slakten Makten Takten; LH 440; Sport Koma; Pari Koma; Så Rinner Tiden Bort.

Personnel: Peter Eldh: bass; Christian Lillinger: drums; Otis Sandsjö: saxophone; Jonas Kullhammar: saxophone; Mikko Innanen: saxophone

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