Timo Lassy with Ricky-Tick Big Band Brass ‘Big Brass Live At Savoy Theatre Helsinki’ LP/CD (Must Have Jazz) 5/5

Timo Lassy’s new release sees him present a live performance with the Ricky-Tick Big Band, collectively gracing the stage at Helsinki’s celebrated Savoy Theatre.

The saxophonist’s extensive work over the years has surely solidified him as a leading name within Finland’s thriving jazz scene. The variety of his projects and collaborations have seen him – as in this case – work on projects from the grand scale of partnering with the Ricky-Tick Big Band Brass wonderful contrasting with considerably smaller scale projects like the pairing of Lassy’s sax with just the drums of long-time collaborator Teppo Mäkynen for their self-titled album released through We Jazz last year. And then there’s his contributions as a member of the brilliant Five Corners Quintet – whose Ricky-Tick releases ‘Chasin’ The Jazz Gone By’ (2005) and ‘Hot Corner’ (2008) are personal classics – and his work with the revered Italian guitarist and producer, Nicola Conte along with a host of other collaborations.

With projects released through a variety of labels over the years from Ricky-Tick to Schema and Membran, it’s Must Have Jazz that holds the distinction of this fantastic set, recorded live over the course of two nights and boasting members of Lassy’s core Quintet which includes keyboards by Georgios Kontrafouris, drums by Teppo Mäkynen, bass by Antti Lötjönen and percussion by Abdissa Assefa.

The songs selected for ‘Big Brass’ take the scenic route through Lassy’s extensive career enabling him to revisit some of his personal favourites with the added dimension of the Ricky-Tick Big Band Brass helping to reimagine and reinterpret songs from his catalogue. ‘Universal Four’, ‘Sweet Spot’ and ‘African Rumble’ are tackled here from Lassy’s ‘The Soul & Jazz of Timo Lassy’ (2007) – the latter of which sees its original six-minute composition transformed into an overwhelming fourteen-minute centrepiece for the whole performance that any appreciative crowd in attendance would have rightly marvelled at.

‘Northern Express’ also makes for a nice inclusion as it would later go on to find a home on Lassy’s ‘Moves’ album that same year, still boasting the accompaniment of the Ricky-Tick Big Band Brass, as a handful of the album’s songs would also do. Having the luxury of being able to compare the studio versions of Lassy’s tracks within this ensemble big band style performance is a real treat and, should the collective ever record in this fashion again, it might be fun to have Lassy perhaps revisit a track or two from his aforementioned collaborative album with Teppo Mäkynen – the two-man band compositions could have exciting new life breathed into them should the opportunity ever present itself again.

‘Big Brass’ serves as another wonderful set from Timo Lassy – an artist whose prolific approach to music continues to see his star rise through each release.

Imran Mirza