Mikko Innanen with William Parker and Andrew Cyrille – Song for a New Decade
(TUM Records TUM CD 042-2. Double album. CD Review by Jon Turney)
Jazz is a marginal art form. You won’t get rich. But there are compensations. A young horn player from a small town in the Uusimaa/Nyland region of Finland, for instance, can make his way to New York, and befriend and perform with Andrew Cyrille. A shared wish to record, and a call to William Parker, and a dream team trio is convened a month later.
The result – a player just reaching his prime sharing music with two old masters – is as fascinating for the listener as it must have been satisying for Mikka Innanen. He was a little nervous going in, he writes. But as you’d expect the two old pros made him feel comfortable to just be himself. Not too comfortable. There is plenty of edge to these performances, all but one based on pieces Innanen wrote specially for the date.
There are eight studio tracks on the first of this pair of CDs, and they are pleasingly varied. The title track is a jagged-contoured piece with Innanen’s alto saxophone improvising freely, but it soon gives way to The End is a Beginning, a simple six-figure motif that evokes lyrical, melodic, alto with hints of Ornette in the solo. Karl’s Castle moves to straight time, with the freeboppish theme now on baritone sax. The spontaneously created Look for the Red Door changes the sound again, with Innanen playing Indian Clarinet mournfully over repeated bass and drum figures and gathering intensity over eight minutes of twists and turns. And so it goes on, building a nicely paced and considered set with the fresh, exploratory feel that comes from players working together for the first time.
The presence of Cyrille, a creative marvel since the 1960s, is also a reminder of Jazz’s astonishingly compressed history. Our new generation Finn finds himself in the studio with a drummer whose first recording was with Coleman Hawkins. With Parker’s experience on the bass more than a match for the drummer, Innanen has two colleagues who have played pretty much everything there is to play, but remain eager for more.
The result is not a major addition to the astonishing discography of either player, but it is more than an excellent document of a tradition being re-examined and renewed. Cyrille’s kit is beautifully tuned, and beautifully recorded here, and he in particular does seem to have a special connection with the Finn. That is confirmed by the second CD, a live duo date with the drummer a couple of years later. The six tracks here are taken from a continuous improvised performance that is, if anything, even more varied than the trio set. It’s impressive stuff, and it would be interesting to hear what this collaboration would sound like today – the studio and live sets here were captured in 2010 and 2012, respectively. It is far from clear why Tum have only been able to package them for release now. It probably has something to do with jazz being a marginal art form. But it is very good to have them both.