TUM Records: Putting Finnish Jazz Top-Shelf
None of the TUM releases aspire to easy commercial success. The Strings project, a descendant of the 50s forays into lush backing arrangements, sounds fresh and forward thinking. Donner and Aaltonen released an album in 1976 called Strings , and the 2003 version contains three re-workings from that project. Donner is an omnivorous composer, drawing on modern classical techniques (the thick, creeping cloud string atmospheres that open and close “Trains & Boats & Planes”), pop sensibilities (the softly romantic “Sax Ballad”), and world musical traditions (“Deliverance” gets its lilting rhythmic phrasing from Indian music). Strings Revisited in no way screams eclectic; it shows that Donner has just translated a few musical words into his own language and used them to help express his own cleverly crafted sound.
The music on the three discs often broods with a dark intensity that lends the music a tense, emotional weight. At times it weighs too heavy, like on Suhkan Uhka’s “Tuonen Tytti,” where the ensemble grows so dense that the music becomes directionless. At others, like on Donner’s “Evolution Vamp," the heavy brooding transforms the music into a bold experience of voices moving in many directions and jagged rhythms.
While everyone talks about big changes in the recording industry, TUM Records is quietly showing an alternative: make the product worth a listener’s time and money. The musicians on these recordings have thought deeply about their music; they deserve that music to be presented with the same depth. TUM Records does exactly that.
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