CD review

Antti Lötjönen – “Quintet East”

Antti Lötjönen – Quintet East
(We Jazz WJLP22. CD Review by Jon Turney)

Finnish bassist Antti Lötjönen is not a man to rush into anything. A veteran of 100 recordings, this CD is his first session as a leader. The results are well worth waiting for.

People often hear regional strains in Nordic-jazz, and there’s something in that for much of the music we’ve enjoyed from Northernmost Europe the last few decades. Not so here. The main influences are firmly North American. Lötjönen and his cohorts are all adepts at freebop as it was defined in the 1960s and ‘70s. They don’t push the style any further, but show there is plenty of scope for mining this vein to yield new music.

The pianoless line-up features an impressive horn trio with Verneri Pohjola on trumpet, Mikko Innanen on alto, baritone and sopranino saxes while Jussi Kannaste sticks to tenor. Joonas Riippa on drums completes the quintet.

They show their allegiances clearly. After a brief solo bass opener, the first of two long pieces, Erzeben Strasse, sees Pohjola leaning strongly towards Don Cherry. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, the only composition not by the leader, begins as a bass and alto duo, in worthy tribute to Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman’s gorgeous treatment of the same soap opera signature tune. Innanen’s alto solo on Pocket Yoga again emulates Coleman convincingly in tone as well as phrasing – and the track as a whole could easily come from an undiscovered session from Old and New Dreams.

The bassist, who takes no solos aside from two very brief unaccompanied pieces, is limber and supple throughout, as this music demands, and has something of Haden’s magical gift of meshing instantly with solo lines that cut loose from regular chord progressions. Riippa is similarly a model of flexibility. He does get to establish a conventional groove on P.S. although the piece lasts less than a minute. It’s not clear why it’s so short, but then nothing here overstays its welcome. A second long piece, Le Petit Lactoire, is typically absorbing, opening with dreamily intoned tenor, which makes way for more assertive soprano to take flight over the other two horns. It’s a good representative of the whole album – dedicated to good old freebop polyphony, but with a gently individual touch that helps ensure the band are inhabiting the style, not imitating it.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney 

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