Tampere Jazz Happening 2009
The guitarist's highly anticipated power trio reunion with bassist William Parker and barefoot drummer Hamid Drake (their DMG @ The Stone, Vol.2 being one of 2008's more memorable CD releases) two evenings later had the audience buzzing at the Old Customs Hall. Said Parker to Bjorkenheim during soundcheck, "I wanna see sparks coming out of your Marshall cabinet!" (this was basically the extent of the pre-set dialogue as to what would be played) Of the two pieces, the first was an hour-long improvisation that rarely relented, even through a technical difficultyevidently Bjorkenheim's cable loosened from its socket, perhaps that "spark" Parker referred to?!that forced the guitarist to bypass his pedal board. The switch, and then switch back after he realized the issue, served as a 'movement' in a 'suite' that never lost an ounce of momentum. In another seamless 'movement,' the guitarist showed off the bowing of his low E string, a technique he's developed and mastered from playing the Moroccan monochord rabab fiddle instrument. The second much shorter piece (at just over 5 minutes) found Parker on the Armenian zurna (related to the shawm, an oboe predecessor) with Bjorkenheim inserting a short metal piece under his strings, an effect closely resembling more an electric kora choir than guitar. It must be said with this group, cliche as it may be - their music continues to prove itself beyond category, the utmost of complements.
Another Finnish mainstay making multiple appearances was veteran tenor saxophonist/flutist Juhani Aaltonen, playing in a slight variation of Nordic Trinity (drummer Mikka Kallio in place of Klaus Suonsaari), and in a duo for the ages with drummer Reiska Laine. Though their association goes back 40 years, they had only played off and on in larger contexts, never as a pair. In descending lapse of time, they ascended from the opening 25-minute spontaneously improvised piece to a near-15 minute rendition of "Lush Life" which has arguably never been given such a tumultuous, yet voluptuous and emotional reading. The pair then closed with a 5-minute improvisation, showcasing overblown harmonics along with a rhythmic ferocity of give and take that left listeners in astonishment. These two valiantly continue and unquestionably add to a tradition that some may argue was originated in the studio with Coltrane and Rashied Ali's 1967 Interstellar Space duos.
At Old Customs Hall, Mikko Innanen's Innkvisitio - featuring three multi- reedmen: the leader (soprano/baritone/alto), Fredrik Ljungkvist (tenor/clarinet) and Daniel Erdmann (tenor/baritone) with pianist/keyboardist Seppo Kantonen and drummer Joonas Rippaoffered an endless amount of color combinations and possibilities (including the quintet's double baritone and tenor frontline). Complex, perhaps over-written, original compositions (including two Yusef Lateef dedications) seemed to handcuff the hornmen into seemingly an over-reliance of sheet music, rare being the opportunity to veer off into looser, uncharted territory. However, stellar solos were played by each the hornmen, and the intricate arrangements accentuated the colorful harmonies of the group's unique instrumentation.
The two non-reedmen from the above-mentioned group also played as an organ-drum duo (calling themselves Kahden Miehen Galaxyor "Two Men Galaxy") at Telakka simultaneous with the first snowfall of the season. Rippa ripped into one break after another, even leaving organist Kantonen unaccompanied on several occasions. The set was dominated by mostly the organist's compositions, too, such as "Matti Palasi Mervin Luo" (featuring segmented improvisations that weaved around an omnipresent spacey theme commonly utilized as a springboard), "Manhir J.R." (venturing from the more characteristic organ grooves, and instead featuring more an experimental side akin to MMW, with Rippa's feathery brushwork an undercurrent for the organist's tapestry of soft but effective effects), "Jazz 123" (with opening and closing Monk "Pannonica" references) and "Lost in Fjords" (its inherent and intentional redundancy seductively trance-inducing).