Finnish Jazz 2001 (Finnish Music Information Centre) I'm always keen on exploring music from other cultures, or even other cultures' unique takes on existing idioms. It's CDs like these that make me wonder if it's because American music often seems tired and banal or if it's just that the exotic, unfamiliar nature of other cultures makes the music seem better than it really is. I haven't come to a definate conclusion, but, to my ears, the Finnish jazz scene certainly seems worthy of checking out. Some highs and lows: * Nuijamiehet starts the album out with somewhat Frippian guitar feedback, ominous bass, and restless drumming. Angular, Crimson-like melodies abound (the band also features a great sax player whose instrument is not always easily distinguished from the distorted guitar - which I quite like). Intense soloing all-around. * The Jarmo Savolainen Trio with Eric Vloeimans contributes a considerably jazzier piece, a slightly Latin-sounding number with some soulful trumpet from guest Vloeimans and wild piano soloing from Savolainen. * Miriam and Band offer an eerie vocal number, featuring Miriam's whispering voice, haunting guitar lines, and prominent (but not annoying) accordian. * Trio Toykeat I am not as impressed with. While the liner notes to the album champion their mastering of many different styles, this schmaltzy, piano-dominated waltz seems simply too cheesy to be taken seriously. That may be the point, but it's difficult to tell when this is the only side of the band the track shows. * Groove Connection have a vaguely retro sound that seems to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but they seem to have a lot of fun with it. A good fusion number. * Markku Veijonsuo produces otherwordly soundscapes created by real-time electronics, digeridoo, and trombone (all done by the same guy). This must be a treat to see live, but the strange music holds up well on CD as well. Despite Veijonsuo's mastery of the trombone, he generally eskews showing off in favor of producing interesting sounds. * Quartet Coyote have a retro, funky, disco-influenced sound that's even more tongue-in-cheek than Groove Connection (and a bit better, I might say). Great supporting electric piano lines and a rhythm section that never gives up the funk (though I could do with a little less saxophone soloing). Nevertheless, one of the best tracks on the CD. *Zetaboo's "Iguana" is a piece that seems appropriately named, combining tribal percussion, weird computer/vocoder vocals with vague hints of jazz and rock. A good piece of music for slightering around rocks, which is high praise in my book. All in all, the Finnish scene is worth checking out for those interested in unconventional jazz. This compilation seem like a good starting place (although they really should have included Finnish prog greats Hoyry-Kone for good measure). ~Adam Murphree~
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