Monday, April 30, 2012

Juhani Aaltonen and Heikki Sarmanto, Conversations

I sometimes find that I have underestimated or not paid enough attention to an artist. I've heard some of his (or her) albums, didn't dislike them, but somehow nothing "took" in my mind. I'll admit that has been the case with reedist Juhani Aaltonen.

The "aha" moment has come for me however with the two-CD album duets he has made with pianist and fellow Finn Heikki Sarmanto, Conversations (TUM 024-2). It's the two of them going over the music of Sarmato, a few collaborative, spontaneously improvised efforts composition-wise, and a couple of standards.

Juhani sticks to the tenor, Heikki to the piano and they weave some rather magical speals and spells. Sarmanto seems like the ideal partner in such a dialog. He is concerned with a spontaneously advanced tonal platform and has many moments of brilliance in a kind of post-Paul-Bley world. He too I have not paid sufficient attention to, and in this context he sounds great.

Juhani on tenor is a fully formed presence. There are intimations of Trane and Ben, Archie and the grand tradition of tenorism, but put in a context that is firmly modern and Aaltonian.

These are marvels of expressive freedom grounded in all that has come before, but re-found in a new playing situation, so to speak.

Very impressive! Very beautiful. Try and give this one a listen!

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