UMO Jazz Fest 2007 in Helsinki, Finland
Trombonist Nils Wogram provided perhaps the most "jazz"-oriented set of the festival with his Root 70 group that included German NYC-based drummer Jochen Rückert and New Zealanders Hayden Chisholm (alto and melodica) and Matt Penman (bass). With a parallel aesthetic to the Roswell Rudd-Steve Lacy group (though with alto substituting soprano obviously), this group's dynamic featured improvising over a solid foundation of swinging compositions. Wogram also is a master of multiphonics, a technique certainly in his German blood with one of the technique's pioneers being the late trombone maestro Albert Mangelsdorff. His performance of this extended technique was best exhibited on "The Myth . With false endings that kept the audience on the edge of their seats, Wogram and Chisholm showcased an impressive harmonic familiarity that culminated in Chisholm's Tuvan-like throat singing high-pitched whistle to complement the trombonist's sustained, arm fully extended last position, buzzing notes on trombone. And showing his versatility in timbres, the trombonist replicated a didgeridoo on "Y13", opening unaccompanied before the band eventually joined. Why he has yet to record solo, surely an inviting concept he would be a confident and successful player of, is a bit perplexing, though an obvious challenge, and hopefully a goal to be fulfilled before too long. An extraordinary and still young and certainly under-regarded talent on his instrument, Wogram maintains a tonal center and swings like mad, proving he also has both the fluidity and chops of a J.J. Johnson-influenced player who can manage absolutely any tempo. Though Penman and Rückert played vital backing roles, it was the horn frontline that most impressed through this set, Wogram especially.
And perhaps the best and most logical double-billing was the Swedish group Oddjob and Helsinki's The Stance Brothers, each spinning their takes on "acid jazz." Nominated for a Swedish Grammy for their album Luma (Amigo Musik), the Oddjob quintet's unifying sound (and attire, too - all were coordinated in blue cocktail suit attire and ties) was due in no small part to the fact they have been together for a decade, though their sound was certainly a throwback to several decades previous.
Oddjob consists of Peter Forss (bass), Per "Rusktrask" Johansson (alto, clarinet, congas and percussion), the Donald Byrd-influenced Goran Kajfes (trumpet, congas), Daniel Karlsson (piano and keyboards), and Janne Robertson (drums). Unlike with the Buster Keaton Orchestra, the space's loud and non-ideal acoustics did not complement their more extroverted style, and the high board mix given to them was far too generous, but their crafty King Crimson cover of "Moonchild served as a splendid miniature that came towards a set's end of highly enjoyable " '60s Blue Note style dancefloor jazz (as fittingly described in the festival program). The audience interestingly preferred to stand fairly motionless, though, in awe of the bebop-rooted aural onslaught that Oddjob hints at on record and confidently accomplishes live.
From the latter, a festival highlight was the original "Roll Call," exciting drum breaks interspersed with a list of shout-outs to jazz drumming giants. The Stance Brothers was led by drummer Teppo Mäkynen, whose alias on the program as "Byron Breaks didn't fool the locals for a moment: he's the well-known leader of the Helsinki-based Five Corners Quintet (you may recall their big-selling album from a few years back that was so successful Blue Note Records picked it up). His bouncy hair and photogenic always upbeat expression and style respectively recalls Summer of Love '60s beach rock bandstand TV shows and drummer Max Weinberg of Conan O'Brien's Late Night show.