Verneri Pohjola: The Dead Don’t Dream

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This is Finnish horn player Verneri Pohjola’s fourth album on Edition and it confirms his stature on the European jazz scene. Unlike a lot of contemporary jazz artists, 42-year old Pohjola has developed a mostly pristine sound that’s not a hybrid, borrowing from electronica, folk, world or classical music.

Forced to make a comparison using a Venn diagram, I’d put him in an overlap that had Kenny Wheeler in one circle and Jon Hassell in the other. His music is much cooler than either, however. (I’m trying hard not to invoke the stereotyping of Finns as wary, stubborn, insular and calm – but failing). Certainly, The Dead Don’t Dream is a stately and imposing piece of work.

The opener, Monograph has Pohjola making clarion calls across a pacey rhythm section sprinkled with bright chording from Prättälä; in the distant background there’s occasional tantalising counterpoint, as if from another room. Another original piece, Wilder Brother, has a similar proclamatory, fanfare feeling that’s brightened further by Lyytinen’s high-flying soprano sax solo and then tight unison playing with the leader.

The title track is a standout, Pohjola tracing its mournful – even regretful – melody in a tone that goes from gauzy to burnished across the choruses. Subtle, glimmering colours from guest Miikka Paatelainen’s pedal steel work beautifully with the beautifully choreographed dance of drum and bass.

It’s the sort of sombre album that’s hard to warm to initially, but once you’re reached an understanding it could become a friend for life.

Discography
Monograph; Wilder Brother; Voices Heard; The Conversationalist; The Dead Don’t Dream; Argirro; Suspended (46.05)
Pohjola (t); Tuomo Prättälä (p); Mika Kallio (d); Antti Lötjönen (b); plus Pauli Lyytinen (ss, ts); Miikka Paatelainen (pedal steel).
Edition Records EDN1153