Juhani Aaltonen: Reflections (2005)
If Reflections is any indication, Finland's emerging TUM Records should have a long and happy life ahead. Fans of free improvisation, which is the label's focus, should take note.
Before you even get to the music, TUM's presentation is impressive. In an age when digital music and personal playlists are ever gaining new acolytes, TUM's production values are a reminder of the satisfaction that a well-packaged album can deliver. There's an attractive modern art cover (from Finnish Constructivist Lars-Gunnar Nordström) and a booklet of session photos, individual bios, and trio history, plus illuminating track descriptions.
Fortunately the packaging is also a reflection of the quality of music inside Reflections. Finnish saxophonist and flutist Juhani Aaltonen works with Reggie Workman (bass, percussion), and Andrew Cyrille (drums) to produce a fine free jazz set where freedom is studied, deliberate, and meaningful. Composition titles such as "Serenity, "Reflections, and "Supplications belie the often heated nature of the collaboration, though there are reflective moments to be sure. "Effervesce, rather than being bubbly, is more like a bottle uncorked and exploding.
Aaltonen's playing is a good marriage of passion and technique, his tone sometimes deep and smooth, sometimes scratchy and staccato. He blows through the length of his horn for a low ghost of a sound, wails away at the top of the tenor's range, and moans and groans the pitches he plays on the flute.
"Reflections, an Aaltonen composition, starts off intriguing, with bowed bass, flute, cymbals, and chimes creating a mysterious and ominous mood. Flute and bass share a melodic theme, with the drums rumbling away like approaching thunder, punctuated by occasional cymbal splashes. Cyrille's "The Navigator is a high point as well, almost classical in its spare, measured arrangement, before giving way to a dance-like repeated vamp in the bass.
Track Listing: Serenity; Selflessness; The Navigator; Still Small Voice; Effervesce; Reflections; Supplications.
Personnel: Juhani Aaltonen: tenor sax, flute, alto flute; Reggie Workman: bass, percussion; Andrew Cyrille: drums.