30/05/2017Jaska Lukkarinen Trio: Putting Finnish Jazz On The Map For Good

Finnish jazz? Why yes, that too is a possibility. Well, let's say we expected as much, ever since Finnish jazz sextett Dalindèo appeared on the scene back in 2003 or filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki introduced us to Finnish tango. It should not come as a surprise then that Finnland today has a budding jazz scene with a handful of key players, such as drummer Jaska Lukkarinen and Berlin/Helsinki-based composer Valtteri Laurell Pöyhönen. Pöyhönen is known as the leader of such acclaimed ensembles as the aforementioned Dalindèo or the Ricky-Tick Big Band. Both groups feature Lukkarinen on drums.

Now Lukkarinen and his eponymous trio got together in 2015, after agreeing to play at Helsinki's We Jazz Festival that December. In need of a new setlist, the three-piece of Lukkarinen on drums, Jussi Kannaste on tenor sax and Antti Lötjönen (The Five Corners Quintet) on bass decided to take on material by Pöyhönen, tearing songs apart and reassembling them to fit the trio format, thus unearthing entirely new routes within the compositions themselves.

Recorded live on 11 December 2015 at Helsinki's club Dubrovnik, the Jaska Lukkarinen Trio's "Origami" LP"offers a solid glimpse of the remarkable creative power and strong dynamics of one of the best working groups on the Finnish scene". Opener "Flow On" is a somewhat mischievous approach to a Dalindèo cut from "Soundtrack for the Sound Eye" (2010). "I think the brilliance of the original composition really shines bright in our arrangement," Lukkarinen adds. Title track "Origami" is a newly commissioned piece, tailor-made for the trio that twists and turns in tireless melodic bouts, considering, then reconsidering, then absolutely nailing it. On "Komeda" Lukkarinen delivers an introductory drumroll to the opening theme, which then gives way to a beautifully melodic ballad, once again accompanied by riveting freeform runs. Finally, "Pengerkadulla" puts the bass front and center, an upbeat track with a smooth tenor sax motif and more on-point delivery by Lukkarinen.

“Origami” to us is literally uncharted territory, a musical journey into surroundings at once familiar yet equally foreign, each step bearing a notion of promise, rich in nuance and melody. Layers over layers of masterful, ever so curious experimentation, structured innovation that is as appeasing as it is mesmerising.

You can stream or download the entire release here. The digital version also features the possibly Ethio jazz inspired "Beauty Passing By", which is equally well worth your while. And that is most definitely an understatement.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom