Aki Rissanen – Another North
(Edition Records EDN1101 – CD review by Mark McKergow)
Finnish pianist Aki Rissanen’s second album shows an interesting and very listenable collection of contemporary trio-based music taking in jazz, groove and the classical concert hall.
Following on from his strong 2016 debut Amorandom (winning the Emma Prize in Finland for Best Jazz Album), Rissanen has stuck with the same line-up of musicians for this recording. While perhaps a little less overtly jazz-influenced, this is an ambitious album featuring seven tracks which span many influences. The opening Blind Desert launches into an insistent pattern from the trio, with the drumming of Teppo Mäkynenstanding out immediately, solid and always fidgeting and changing in the 2010’s style. We are not immediately aware of a head-solos-head format with the tunes turning and shifting as they evolve.
The influence of contemporary music runs through the album, most clearly appearing in a reworking of Gyorgy Ligeti’s piano work Etude 5: Arc-en-ciel. Ligeti wrote the piece having been influenced by the music of piano genius Bill Evans, and it offers fertile ground for the trio. The opening lines are taken by Antti Lötjönen’s double bass, and the rhythm section add tonal colour and texture as Rissanen takes on the piano part. Here, as in the rest of the album, the piano tone seems to take on an unusually important role, worth listening to carefully and reflectively. I was reminded of the tonality of fellow Finn Iiro Rantala’s solo piano takes on John Lennon, Working Class Hero, which I reviewed here in 2015 – this is another album for a late night listen.
Elsewhere, the trio show they are more than capable of tackling more groove-based music. New Life and Other Beginnings starts with a nicely thumping bass and drums passage before Rissanen comes along with some rich chordal textures, before the groove dissolves into a more improvised passage with a lot of communication between the players. Before The Aftermath is laden with anticipation, military style snare drumming helping the piece to build before an explosion of rolling phrases takes over. The most overtly ‘jazzy’ of the tracks is the closing Hubble Bubble, the only track credited to all three musician as composers, which hits a rolling one-in-a-bar stride with some fine playing all round.
There is a lot of music to enjoy here, from a lot of different angles. It will be interesting to see how it all translates into a live context. Fortunately, London listeners can do just this at the trio’s Pizza Express gig on Tuesday 28 November 2017.