Black Motor / Bowman Trio / Jaska Lukkarinen Trio ‘Live Plates Vol.1: Berlin 27.10.17’ LP/CD/DIG (WE JAZZ) 4/5

The We Jazz organisation returns for this live recording from their annual We Jazz Label Night at Scope Festival, performed at Club Monarch in Berlin in October 2017. The album essentially features two performances each by three groups from the We Jazz roster, Jaska Lukkarinen Trio, Bowman Trio and Black Motor, who have all previously released albums on the Finnish record label over the recent years.

Separating the release into three, with Jaska Lukkarinen Trio beginning with ‘Pengerkadulla’, a dynamic but fluid composition that features drummer and producer Jaska Lukkarinen, Jussi Kannaste on tenor saxophone and Mattias Welin playing upright bass. Here, Jussi Kannaste leads the way with his strong melodic phrasing who is furthermore joined by complimentary bassist Welin while the impeccable timing of Lukkarinen underpins the arrangement. ‘Roger’ starts as a more straightforward swing number before becoming looser and more sporadic, especially Lukkarinen’s drum solo which contains some intricately sharp fills and patterns.

Bowman Trio commence their section with ‘Just A Scratch’, a relaxed piece possessing a somewhat languid quality, albeit, containing space for all band members to flourish, with the group consisting of Tomi Nikku on trumpet, Joonas Tuuri on bass and Sami Nummela playing drums. ‘The Hillary Step’, which in its studio form was released on the b-side of their 7” release ‘The Chase (Version 1)’ in October 2018, preserves their more traditional (but definitely not trad) sensibility. As Bowman Trio is one of the less leftfield signees to We Jazz, they focus heavily on their arrangements and the art of composition. All very successfully done and with flair and precision.

And finally, Black Motor offer ‘Lähempänä Taivasta’ and ‘Branches (Berliner Musik)’. This trio has existed for over 10 years in various configurations and they embody a more spiritual jazz and freer aesthetic than the two other groups. Here, the line-up consists of Tane Kannisto playing flute, shehnai and nagaswaram (both Indian reed instruments), Ville Rauhala on double bass and drummer Simo Laihonen. ‘Lähempänä Taivasta’ is relatively slow and sparse piece that evolves over its duration, revealing some high quality improvisational interaction between members. ‘Branches (Berliner Musik)’ becomes increasingly textured and dense, with the Indian wind instruments played by Kannisto supporting its spiritual jazz temperament.

All of the compositions featured are either previously unreleased or are new arrangements (and a small detail but the vinyl and CD/digital versions have a differing track order.) At times there is noticeable crowd and ambient noise during some of the quieter passages of the recordings, including the sound of the local emergency services passing the venue during ‘Lähempänä Taivasta’, but it’s never intrusive and there has always been a symbiotic relationship between jazz and live recordings – and long may that continue.

Capturing the instant and spontaneous nature of a live set on vinyl and other purchasable formats and using solid sound engineering techniques seems to be returning in popularity, with We Jazz Live Plates, a new series for the label of which this is the first, showcasing their numerous live exploits and thus, this release is thoroughly welcomed.

Damian Wilkes