Verneri Pohjola ‘The Dead Don’t Dream’ LP/CD (Edition) 4/5

Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola has deservedly earned a formidable reputation over recent years as one of Europe’s most creative and innovative musicians in jazz. With a series of highly successful and praised albums behind him, this is his fourth release on Edition Records and continues to showcase what a refreshing talent he undoubtedly is.

Featuring Tuomo Prättälä on piano, Antti Lötjönen on bass, and Mika Kallio on drums, “The Dead Don’t Dream” brings together elements of Pohjola’s previous releases, most notably the wonderful “Bullhorn”, with the same thoughtful yet adventurous spirit coursing through the seven compositions. Pohjola’s expressive playing is as sensitive and exquisite as ever, bringing to mind the likes of Arve Henriksen and Jon Hassell, his creative voice a statement of subtle intent that flows effortlessly through the whole album.

The album title itself conjures up many thoughts. It might appear to reference a darker side, and there is indeed a contemplative solemnity to much of the music here, but it is also an album of opportunity and optimism, as the trumpeter explains; “The music is not necessarily about anxiety or hopelessness, even though there’s plenty of both in our modern society. For me, it’s more about breathing in and out, letting go of unnecessary stress, accepting who you are and hopefully becoming a more balanced person. It’s about embracing life in all of its complex emotions, while we still have it. After all, the Dead Don’t Dream.”

The tunes presented on this session all benefit from their own narrative quest. The sparse, dream-like nature of the title track simply broods with its own melancholic virtue. In contrast, the anthemic “Monograph” is gently uplifting, and along with the engaging “Suspended” all feature Miika Paatelainen on pedal steel, adding to the atmosphere of these pieces. One of my favourite tunes “Wilder Brother” features Pauli Lyytinen on saxophone, and is a majestic piece of music, fluent, melodious and rich in texture. The pensive, reflective nature of “Voices Heard” gathers strength and pace as the tune develops, cautiously opening up as it goes. I love the way Pohjola expertly traverses light and dark shades, as on “Argirro”, his twisting breathy lines bringing optimism from despair. Cool and vibrant, “The Conversationalist” harks back to an early era of Miles, with its licks and tricks all pulling together on this beautifully balanced piece of music.

Once again Verneri Pohjola has produced an album with many layers to it. There are many depths within his music and the more one listens, the more chance there is that those hidden depths will reveal themselves. Like dreams, they come in waves. Sometimes coherent, sometimes inexplicable. But always worthy of our attention.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Verneri Pohjola ‘Pekka’ 2LP/CD (Edition) 5/5
Verneri Pohjola ‘Bullhorn’ CD (Edition) 4/5