Saxophonist Timo Lassy and drummer Teppo Mäkynen are accomplished stars of the vibrant Finnish jazz scene; artists who have a proven record of successfully trying new things. Musical stasis just ain’t their bag.
So, no surprise then that they’ve decided to create just under 40 minutes worth of music that consists of only the two of them; just a drummer and just a saxman. That may seem to some (me) to be a bit risky, a bit brave. Some people (me) prefer the sonic and rhythmic dynamism and range that can only be delivered by more than two instruments. Maybe. We got a taste of how the album might be with their hypnotic, minimal, clappy 2017 single, “Calling James”. I loved it but am not sure I could handle 40 minutes of it. Probably.
Production is handled in-house by “Teddy Rok” Mäkynen for “Another Rok Solid Production” (still only the two of them involved then!) but, fortunately for everyone, the album cover is designed by a 3rd party, Matti Nives; We Jazz Records’ talented album designer. It’s a gorgeous, layered, rectilinear graphic piece representing the sequential flow of the album’s 13 tracks.
Nearly all of the tracks sit around the 3 minute mark and opener “Fallow” is no exception at 3.06. It’s a haunting, pipe-clanging exploration of smog, twilight and emptiness. Mäkynen brings the atmospheric wash while Lassy’s tenor sweetly sighs and mourns. “Glodenrod” immediately lifts the mood via Lassy’s playful melody while Mäkynen pats out a busy, muted pattern very much in the background; drums in the distance.
“Liberty (part 1)” is more focused and linear. A repeated sax motif and a cymbal-riding beat take us to an ideal stopping place for Lassy’s angular solo before returning to the motif and end. “Catawba” are a Native American tribe from Carolina, ensuring a tribal energy, a spirituality and a feeling of wide open space.
“Resolution Blue” is a wee bit self-indulgent, a bit improv-workshoppy, but the sounds and energy are so charming and full of playful life that it works. “Liberty (part 2)” tumbles in with Mäkynen really working his kit before Lassy enthuses over him, with a jiving freedom; switching between lyrical lines and emotive bursts. Nice.
“Aero” is a minimal space jazz. Tiny stars of sax and drum twinkle in the distance and echo beyond the atmosphere. “Kobi” is built on afro-rhythms; a body-swaying, repetitive motif. “Telemagenta” zones in on repetition too. Lassy works a pattern, as if he’s doing his warm-ups, while Mäkynen gives it a metallic metronome.”Nyanza” delivers more of Lassy repeatedly working related patterns in a solo, rolling ascend/descend that’s all about hypnotic hold, release and tempo. “Firebrick” is Mäkynen’s turn alone; he snares it, propelling over train tracks.
The end pair of “Dark Cyan” and “Heliotrope” are excellent parting notes. “Dark Cyan” drops a mazy, throbbing sax while the drums pump and prod its heartbeat. Repeat ad infinitum, please. “Heliotrope” is a warm, ambient blanket of sound that soothes away any sharp, angular edges that may have been felt during the preceding tracks.
This album is a success; turns out I could handle 40 minutes of it. It’s creative, interesting, intellectual. It’s equally free and repetitive, mathematical and expressive, ambient and linear. I was fairly sceptical but it’s won me over. They’ve managed to create difference and energy in each track but it collectively feels like the pair of them. And I think Matti Nives’s cover sums that up perfectly.