If I may quote from the Edition records web site, “Aki Rissanen delivers an all-encompassing, powerful new album….that explores new heights of rhythmic intensity, pulsating grooves and hypnotic loops.” This statement is certainly not hyperbole. It is an accurate description of the music that you will hear on this album. This is an all-star Finnish Trio. Alongside Rissanen on piano, is Antti Lötjönen on bass and Teppo Mäkynen at the drums. In the somewhat overcrowded arena of jazz piano trios, the challenge for these three is to produce something compellingly original and which stands out from the crowd.
The seven track album opens with ‘Blind Desert’ and this piece immediately grabs one’s attention. It is an exuberant and energetic piece of music making, marking the trio out as confident in their presentation. This is high energy music. I’m reminded in places of the more extravagant minimalism of the likes of Terry Riley in the repeated rhythmic passages which weave in and out of the piece. In contrast the following tune ‘John’s Sons’ is somewhat more restrained, but no less intense, and the rhythmic device from the previous piece is utilised again to great effect. ‘New Life and Other Beings’ incorporates elements of rock beats and has almost free-form passages. Amongst the intensity there seems to be a large helping of good humour on this piece. Something for everyone. Most unexpectedly the next piece is a singular interpretation of a piano étude written by György Ligeti which, to me, in parts, sounds strongly reminiscent of the music of the late John Taylor. ‘Nature of the Beast’ is next and opens with a delicate tracery of piano arpeggios which are soon joined by ruminative double bass figures. Gradually, the intensity is built up once again before a more contemplative middle section which is followed with more high-powered minimalism. The tune ends as delicately as it begun. Something of a musical rollercoaster ride.
Drumroll herald the introduction to ‘Before the Aftermath’. The trio are constantly exploring new sounds and textures which hold the attention of the listener. They sound almost restless in their desire to attain new heights of musical expression. The final piece, ‘Hubble Bubble’, commences with insistent drumming and more minimalist piano and bass gradually building up the intensity. Just when you think you know where the music is taking you, there is another abrupt change of gear and we are thrown into a highly swinging section. A delightful change of pace. Then towards the end, the drummer gets a chance to shine. If I were to pick just one piece from this highly enjoyable album as my favourite it would be this one.
These are three master musicians working in a classic jazz trio format who are constantly bringing something new to the table. The ‘Nordic’ piano trio has a particular approach to music-making. Rissanen and friends are far from what we have grown to expect from this genre and they are none the worse for that.