Album reviews

OK:KO – ‘Liesu’

OK:KO – Liesu

(WeJazz Records. Album Review by Peter Slavid

The jazz scene in Finland is a particularly interesting one at the moment. It has links to the local folk music, and something of a DIY mentality, but it also has a strong experimental strand to it. One of the key organisations is WeJazz, which is a Helsinki-based record label, festival organiser, merch store, record shop and a collective. One of their leading bands is the young Helsinki quartet OK:KO who have just released this, their third album, despite being still in their 20s.

The band is led by drummer/composer Okko Saastamoinen with saxophonist Jarno Tikka, pianist Toomas Keski-Säntti and bassist Mikael Saastamoinen.

The music is always accessible, sometimes lyrical and spiritual, with some very strong improvisation, but always with an ensemble feel.

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The album starts with Anima. In typically iconoclastic fashion it starts with a fierce sax improvisation before morphing in to a gentle melody. After the sax stops we are left with a bass and drum over which the piano comes in – initially just picking out single notes. Gradually the piano and the drums wind up the power until the sax reprises the melody and finishes off with a flourish.

The second track, Rieju, develops slowly from some delicate and intricate drumming until a strong piano solo dominates the middle section. Kirkis (which translates as “church”), starts with an extended bowed bass solo with some folksy hints. Again the melody doesn’t appear until later, and becomes a lyrical sax solo. Some thunderous drumming then create a change of tempo, and a more Coltranesque sax solo.

The music shows a real maturity for such a young group, and these are definitely musicians to keep an eye on for the future.

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

The album is released on CD and Digital on 15 April, with Vinyl to follow on 16 July.

LINK: Liesu on Bandcamp

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