Antti Lötjönen Quintet East: ALQE

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Those who have followed Lötjönen’s career will know that he is no stranger to the studio. Having risen to international prominence with the Five Corners Quartet, Ilmiliekki Quartet, 3TM and Timo Lassy amongst others, he is a prime mover in the current renaissance of Finnish jazz.

Quintet East brings together some of his regular and most distinguished collaborators – trumpeter Verneri Pohjola by now needs no introduction, while Mikko Innanen (Koma Saxo), Jussi Kannaste (3TM) and Joonas Riippa (Aki Rissanen, PLOP) are each forces to be reckoned with in their own right.

Pitched somewhere between the free bop of Coleman and Cherry and the more relaxed conversational counterpoints of Mulligan and Baker, ALQE is at once classic and modern. It opens with the first of two solo bass monographs. Lötjönen‘s thoughtfully formed statement creates an air of suspense before the band’s grand entrance.

At just under 10 minutes in length Erzeben Strasse provides ample space for the musicians to explore. Pohjola solos first, toying with a dancing West African pattern, and as he moves into full cry Lötjönen and Riippa pick up the pace. Kannaste’s dark tenor is next, tracing an elegant linear arc before the piece finally breaks down in a round of staccato cross-fire.

Innanen’s plaintive alto leads the Ornette-ish Mary Hartman, a piece from British composer Robert Charles Kingston that was immortalised by Coleman and Haden on their 1977 duo Soapsuds, Soapsuds. Pohjola’s lithe pocket trumpet gets a workout on Pocket Yoga, while Lötjönen‘s torrid arco sketches on Monograph II signal a distinct change of mood.

Oblique treads a suitably skewed melodic path, and Kannaste’s gruff baritone really raises the temperature. The funky P.S. could be a snippet from Ilmiliekki’s cutting room floor, while the free ballad Le Petit Lectoire is distinguished by Innanen’s emotionally charged sopranino. Closing in a pastoral vein with the hymnal Rowan, Lötjönen’s short but bountiful debut has been a joy from first to last.

If like me you’re keen to hear more, don’t miss Pohjola and Innanen’s jaw-dropping exchanges on Don Cherry’s Art Deco from the recent live compilation Lonna (WJCD23).

Discography
Monograph I; Erzeben Strasse; Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; Pocket Yoga; Monograph II; Oblique; P.S.; Le Petit Lectoire; Rowan (42.00)
Lötjönen (b) with Verneri Pohjola (t); Jussi Kannaste (ts); Mikko Innanen (as, bar, sps); Joonas Rippa (d). Järvenpää, 18-19 December 2019.
We Jazz Records WJCD22