Harri Ihanus: Eye Opener (2004)
Eye Opener is a pleasant enough session of post-bop jazz by three Swedes and American tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi. On the other hand, nothing to become overly excited about.
Guitarist Harri Ihanus, the nominal leader, composed each of the album's nine selections, and therein lies the rub. The music is likable but seldom rises above that. The same can be said of the quartet, which is on the same page but has no singular quality that would induce one to sing its praises. It's not bad; neither is it exceptional.
Ihanus, whose guitar has a mellow, reverberant sound, lends an ethereal touch to each number, counterbalancing Bergonzi's lively and keen-edged approach. If Bergonzi's tone were lighter and his temperament more laid back, this would sound much like the classic Stan Getz/Johnny Smith collaborations of half a century ago. In fact, it almost goes there on Ihanus' ballad "Lillhuset," but not quite. Bergonzi does, however, show that he is a sharp and adaptable soloist, on that number and everywhere else.
Ihanus is warm and supple, bassist Filip Augustsson and drummer Jukkis Uotila steady and workmanlike, while Bergonzi's forceful presence lends the album its edge. It's not quite an Eye Opener but does enclose a fair amount of brawn and beauty.
Track Listing: Walking Max; Skating in Sp
Personnel: Harri Ihanus, guitar; Jerry Bergonzi, tenor saxophone; Filip Augustson, bass; Jukkis Uotila, drums.