Album reviews

Alder Ego – ‘III’

Alder Ego – III

(We Jazz Records WJLP31. Album Review by Peter Slavid)

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III is the third album from this young Finnish group, led by drummer Joonas Leppänen. He wrote the majority of the tracks, and his writing is delightfully angular, with a noticeable influence from Ornette Coleman. The band consists of an established front line of Tomi Nikku (of the Bowman trio) on trumpet, and Jarno Tikka (of OK:KO) on tenor. They are joined by newcomer Nathan Francis on bass, originally from the USA but now resident in Helsinki.

The album structure is interesting, with three short tracks under 2 minutes each on all of which Leppänen sits out. Impermanence is an improvised duet between trumpet and saxophone, La Nuit is an uncharacteristically slow duet at an almost funereal pace over the bowed bass, and Nathan’s World, as you might imagine, is a bass solo, albeit with some whistled accompaniment.

There are four longer tracks featuring the full quartet. Typically they start with a melody written for the two front line instruments playing together, with just that hint of bent notes to create a slightly dissonant sound. Soloists will then come and go, with the bass and in particular the drums constantly driving the music forward and making sure nothing settles too predictably.

The final track Ephemeral adds Natalia Castrillón on lever harp. It starts much as usual, but soon the harp is brought in to take the lead, emerging into a delightful duet with the bowed bass. As the other instruments join, the harp gets a bit lost, but re-emerges with some sparkling high-pitched interjections.

In the end the quality of this album, for me, lies in the individual soloing, in the interaction between the soloists, and in the melodies that encourage the artists into those solos. Leppänen’s writing has developed nicely since we first came across the band, and his melodies are now much stronger and more interesting.

This is still a young band that is part of an increasingly interesting Finnish scene, supported by the innovative We Jazz label, and they are definitely worth watching. If they keep progressing as they have over the last few years, there’s a lot more interesting music to come.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on and various internet stations

LINK: III is on Wejazz’s Bandcamp

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