The most difficult thing about writing this review was making sure I got right the spelling of the names of the members of the all-Finnish, Helsinki-based ensemble. For here is a sparkling, listener-friendly shot of richly cast and beautifully delivered, blues-shot and “breathing” modern-mainstream joy, which I can’t imagine any jazz lover not relishing.
It comes complete with an encomium from pianist and composer Heikki Sarmanto, legendary elder statesman of Finnish jazz. “This album”, says Sarmanto on the inner sleeve, “makes me think with nostalgia of the rich sounds and rhythms of jazz music from the 50s and 60s. I grew up in that world. I am happy to realise that Saxman Syrjänen flows from the same fountain [..] The music is melodic, perfectly scored for this type of combo, with a variety of interesting and swinging rhythms [..] and inspiring solos […] All in all, this music has joy and spontaneity.”
Not much needs adding to such warm words. If you are drawn to Texas tenor in the Arnett Cobb or Buddy Tate vein or the many funky and mellow delights of late 1950s and early 1960s Blue Note, For Friends is the sort of straightahead session you will not want to miss.
Elegant and thoughtful voicings, spot-on solos all round and finger-clicking, relaxed yet in-the-pocket rhythm combine to do full justice to Syrjänen’s literate yet freshly cast and characterful compositions. Satisfaction guaranteed!
(1) Good Going; Painting Blue; For Friends; Out Of Green; Waltz With My Soul; Cloudy Night; (2) Kung Po Blues; (1) Red Sombrero (38.18)
(1) Panu Syrjänen (ts); Antero Priha (t); Kasperi Kallio (p); Leevi Leppänen (d); Pasi Könönen (elg); Heikki Saarenkunnas (b); (2) as (1) plusMikko Koponen (t, flh). Helsinki 2019.
Runski Music RM 123131