“Ateneum 2019” is a live recording that has been released as part of Helsinki label We Jazz’s ongoing series documenting their artists’ live performances. Recorded at the historic Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki during Spring 2019, this compilation brings together three acts on the label’s roster: Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen, OK:KO and Alder Ego, with each outfit performing two tracks.
As with any release of this kind, with a limited amount of music from each artist, it only really gives the listener a taster from each of the musicians, making the album as a whole feel a little disjointed. On the other hand, if you haven’t heard the three groups involved, it could act as a good introduction to their music and might encourage further investigation into the acts and the label itself in more general terms.
The first two tracks showcase the talents of the wonderful OK:KO. I love their sound, their vibe, their skilful weaving of melodies and faultless improvisation. Their sound here in this live context is electrified by Toomas Keski-Säntti changing from piano to Fender Rhodes, a little touch that opens up new avenues of exploration for the band. Having made a splash last year with their debut album “Syrtti”, on this album they perform energetic new versions of the mesmerising title track and the looping “Piik”. The connection between sax, keys, drums and bass is beautifully integrated, with an organic feel to their music that is deep and rewarding.
Alder Ego, led by drummer Joonas Leppänen, shifts gears with a new version of their 2018 album track “Cubism”, and add a new track “Mystery Room Nr. 6” into the mix. Their music has a kind of 60’s Blue Note feel to it. On its surface it has its contemporary edge, yet underneath it swings with style. The audio quality on this band’s two tunes doesn’t sound as clear or well balanced as the other two artists’ tunes on this album, which is a shame.
Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen stretch out their compact tracks “Fallow” and “Goldenrod”, which grow into new length and depth in this live setting. To be honest I felt a little underwhelmed listening to this sax and drums duo. It’s enjoyable enough but doesn’t give the listener that much to get their teeth into.
For me, this album is well worth checking out if only for the two tunes presented by OK:KO. I could quite happily have sat listening to a whole live set by this very promising group. More please. As for the remaining two artists and their chosen pieces, I enjoyed them yes, and they certainly have their merits, but the variable sound/ recording quality lets the side down somewhat. Overall an interesting album, with its highs and lows, although I’m not so sure that just two tracks from three artists works that well, even if it is part of a larger offering from the label.