Iro Haarla Quintet: Vespers (2011)
Haarla's been far from inactive since the release of Northbound, touring with an all-Finnish version of the all-star Scandinavian band on the recording, and working with another Finnish legend, saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen, on Conclusions (Tum, 2009), and a 2010 Tampere Jazz Happening performance. Vespers shares plenty with Aaltonen's disc. Both discs feature her current husband Ulf Krokforsknown amongst ECM fans for work with Vesala, and the sadly overlooked Krakatau, and for shifting his name from Uffe to Ulf, seemingly at willa bassist as capable of holding down a groove on the simmering "Satoyama" as he is anchoring the rubato "A Port on a Distant Shore" with minimal but ever-perfect and muscular choices, as Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen paints with a strong emphasis on cymbals over drums. Both discs also feature her "The Shimmer of Falling Stars," here dropped a number of keys, and played with a broader sense of temporal freedom.
Haarla's piano work is, as everand like her quintet'sthe epitome of economy, never playing a series of chords when one beautifully ambiguous one will do, but it's her unparalleled harp work that gives much of her music its sweeping sense of the cinematic. Haarla's music doesn't just evoke the visual, however, it's actually possible to feel "The Warm Currents of the Sea," as Seim and fellow Norwegian, trumpeter Mathias Eicktwo players who, in their remarkable timbral control, perennially favor quality over quantityweave in, out and around each other, coming together in magical moments of synchronicity over the quietly turbulent foundation laid by Haarla, Krokfors and Christensen, only to dissolve and depart again, as Haarla takes a solo of shimmering beauty.
Northbound may have been more immediately impressive for its unexpected combination of tranquil stasis and gentle forward motion, but Vespers is the perfect follow-up, one which capitalizes on both the strength of Haarla's compositional conception and the stunning perfection of a group of distinct and individual voicesmost, leaders in their own rightwho join together to create a collective sound truly like no other.
Track Listing: A Port On A Distant Shore; Vesper; A Window Facing South; The Warm Current of the Sea; Doxa; Satoyama; The Shimmer of Falling Stars; Returning Home; Adieux.
Personnel: Iro Haarla: piano, harp; Mathias Eick: trumpet; Trygve Seim: saxophones; Ulf Krokfors: double-bass; Jon Christensen: drums.
Record Label: ECM Records