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Arctic Blues





  1. Moz

  2. Relations

  3. Arctic Blues

  4. Longing

  5. Mean Meat Blues

  6. Hallanvaara

  7. Ruby My Dear

  8. Oshumare

  9. Nordisk Samarbete *


  1. Straight Up

  2. Off Minor

  3. Teranga

  4. Picture in 3 Colours

  5. Long Way From Home

  6. Northern Dimension

  7. Rose In A Valley

  8. Halling *

  9. *

    Personnel 29.01.16 - 01.02.16

    Eero Koivistoinen - Tenor sax, conductor

    Jouni Järveiä - Alto sax, flute

    Mikko Mäkinen - Alto, soprano sax, flute

    Teemu Salminen - Tenor sax, flute, piccolo

    Manuel Dunkel - Tenor sax, flute

    Petti Päivinen - Baritone sax, bass clarinet

    Teemu Mattson, Timo Paasonen - Trumpet, fluegelhorn

    Pekka Laukkanen, Jay Kortehisto, Mikko Mustonen - Trombone

    Mikko Sinivalo - Bass trombone

    Teemo Vinikainen - Guitar

    Seppo Kantonen - Piano, synth

    Jori Huhtala - Bass, electric bass

    Mikko Hassinen - Drums

    Mongo Aaltonen - Percussion

    Personnel UMO live performance 6.10.05 (marked *)

    Eero Koivistoinen - Tenor sax, conductor

    Penti Lahti, Mikko Mäkinen - Alto sax, flute

    Teemu Salminen - Tenor sax, flute, piccolo

    Olli Ojajärvi - Tenor sax, flute

    Petti Päivinen - Baritone sax, bass clarinet

    Teemu Mattson,Timo Passonen, Mikko Pettinen, Tero Saarti - Trumpet, fluegelhorn

    Markku Veijonsuo, Pekka Laukkanen, Mikko Mustonen - Trombone

    Mikael Långbacka - Bass trombone

    Teemu Vinikainen - Guitar

    Jarmo Savolainen - Piano, synth

    Ville Huolman - Bass

    Mikko Hassinen - Drums

    There are undoubtedly some fine jazz big bands on the European jazz scene at the present time. In fact, at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival earlier this year, one of the gigs featured the youth jazz orchestras from three different countries, in vibrant form, demonstrating that there is little fear the tradition will die out. The UMO Jazz Orchestra stands comparison with any. Founded in 1975, it was originally known as the Finnish Jazz Workshop but soon became UMO (New Music Orchestra). Over the next fifteen years as a saxophonist, composer, arranger and conductor, Eero Koivistoinen was an integral part of the orchestra's growing repuation, subsequently returning to serve for a couple of years (1996-1998) as artistic director. After his initial education at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Eero had studied at the Berklee School of Music in the States under Herb Pomeroy. This disc substantially features music composed by Koivistoinen (except for a couple of pieces by Thelonious Monk). The vast majority of the tracks date from a studio recording from early 2016 but three of them go back as long as 2005 and a live recording at the UMO Jazz House.

    This two CD set is of consistently high standard with maybe the second one having a slight edge. For me, the pick of the first disc is the track Longing, a composition where Koivistoinen draws on the Finnish folk tradition. He himself is the soloist and his expansive, warm tone captures the mood of the piece (and the title) perfectly. On Moz, a title written for an album whose purpose was to raise money for aid to Mozambique, he is again a soloist and plays with flair and urgency, buttressed by Tero Saarti's imaginative yet controlled contribution on trumpet. As so often on these recordings the clean, cohesive sound of the orchestra impresses. The title track Arctic Blues is marked by a potent, driving arrangement and conveys an authentic, rousing, blues theme, epitomised by the gutsy Teemu Vinikainen on guitar. Monk's Ruby My Dear lists only Eero on tenor as soloist on this appealing ballad but also contains some quality piano and trumpet. Oshumare, written in Benin, reflects the composer's interest in African music. The well-drilled nature of the band is again apparent with the reeds particularly strong. Listen, too, for the effortless fluegelhorn of Mikko Pettinene. Manuel Dunkel takes centre stage on tenor sax, for this folksy number. Although Hallanvaara is certainly not without merit, it will communicate best with free-jazzers, being somewhat off the wall. The same might be said of Nordisk Samarbete, a track from the 2005 session, despite the ingenious cocktail of Nordic and Finnish national anthems. I swear I heard Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly somewhere in there!

    The highlight of the second disc is undoubtedly Picture In 3 Colours which first saw the light of day in Koivistoinen's album of the same title, recorded in New York in 1983. It proves to be exceptional material, calling forth performances to match, especially from Dunkel on tenor sax who confirms his abilities in a mellow, rich and inventive take on a distinctive theme. On Rose In A Valley there is a beautifully judged, wistful and moody alto sax solo from Jouni Järveiä which reminded me of Art Pepper. Long Way From Home, meanwhile, carries a Latin beat and is well worth hearing. The remaining two 2005 tracks are Halling and former has a jazz/folk flavour (Scottish jazz trumpeter and leader Colin Steele would feel right at home) and is based on a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle melody. was commissioned for the Millennium and, with brass and drums prominent, is a suitably lively finale.

    If you like soloists of accomplishment (and who doesn't?) and crisp ensemble work from your big bands, the UMO will not disappoint. As for Koivistoinen, he ticks the right boxes on every front, whether as instrumentalist, conductor, composer or arranger. Bravo!

    James Poore

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