Honesty is the best policy so the truth is I have never heard any of these musicians before and that may also be the case for many listeners but I didn’t let it put me off and neither, I suggest, should you.
For the record, it is Antti Lötjönen’s debut release as a leader and features him on bass and compositions, with Verneri Pohjola on trumpet, Mikko Innanen alto, baritone and sopranino sax, Jussi Kannaste on tenor sax and Joonas Riippa on drums, but he has been on many recordings as a sideman.
And this is a very accomplished recording that speaks well of the quality of the Finnish jazz scene. The opening track is appropriately called ‘Monograph I’ which serves to introduce Lötjönen as an expressive bassist although in some ways it’s not representative of the album as a whole as it’s a stately progression of a short bass solo rather than a group workout.
The second track, ‘Erzeben Strasse’, brings us towards the core of the record having a post-boppish feel. It has a smart and nicely arranged head. Then there is a long, breathy solo from trumpeter Pohjola with just bass and drums underneath (nicely done by the way). This shows off the chordless nature of the group well. About halfway the band come back in with Innanen’s bari prominent before they move into a freer, sharper but still sweet section.
‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ the old soap signature tune is the only track not written by Lötjönen and kicks off as an alto, bass duo or rather an alto solo with bass accompaniment before the band come in – the sound is reminiscent of Ornette Coleman.
‘Pocket Yoga’ has a quicker paced short head before Lötjönen takes a short slower solo. Again this is very Coleman-like with quicker and slower parts before we get another, this time sharper, solo from Pohjola and a choppy alto solo.
‘Monograph II’ moves away from that Coleman feel being another bass solo – bowed this time. I detect some electronics or perhaps percussion effects. Again this is a short interlude before we are back with that astringent sound band sound for ‘Oblique’, a slower number with the musicians playing off each other in a freer feel before a tenor solo.
Things get a bit funkier with ‘P.S.’. As well as the bass, there’s a cool and punchy baritone underpinning. You are just getting into it when… it ends at only 55 seconds. Nice but too short!
‘Le Petit Lactoire’ is into a ballad feel, much smoother with a tenor almost singing lead with bass and brushes before the others join in the “choir”. The sopranino becomes more prominent before taking over unaccompanied then the bass and drums are back and the feel is less ballad and more like Ornette again which takes us to the end when the alto joins in unison.
The final track, ‘Rowan’, is another slower and shorter one with percussion and cymbal effects and unison horns. It feels a little like a calming encore after an involving set.
Altogether a very fine record and well worth seeking out.
Antti Lötjönen Quintet East / Aleksi Heinola Quintet / Oaagaada ‘Lonna 2019’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 3/5
3TM ‘Abyss (A Prelude to Lake)’ LP/Cassette / ‘Lake’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 5/5
Ilmiliekki Quartet ‘Land of Real Men’ 2LP/CD (We Jazz) 3/5