We get a fair amount of blue yearning from jazz, occasionally a dollop of cynical humour, sometimes turbulent, protesting rage, often wrangling angst. Which means that unashamed cheerfulness and unapologetic prettiness can be a little disconcerting.
Iiro Rantala, the Finnish pianist and composer of over half of this album, says he wants to write “simple melodies that people can remember” and there is lots to sing along to here, not least a ditty like Snapchat, a happy groover that lacks only the tinkle and chat of a background cocktail party to distinguish it from some choice live Ramsey Lewis of the ’60s. A Nut bounces with the giggling energy of a food-additive high four-year-old on a bouncy castle.
Bruno, written for one of Rantala’s young sons, feels like it needs to be the soundtrack to one of those romantic comedy film sequences when the couple are wandering the streets at Christmas, laughing, kissing, hugging while all around them cheery revellers toast them with mulled wine and knowing looks. And the snow looks so fluffy and pretty.
Elsewhere double bassist Lars Danielsson contributes tunes which evoke a Nordic morning and a night in Istanbul, drummer Peter Erskine offers the rich, low-tom driven Each Breath with Rantala in distinct Jarrett frame of mind, and there are tunes by Kenny Barron, Jimi Hendrix and Johan Sebastian Bach.
Rantala says he is delighted to be working with Erskine because he is a big fan of his work with Weather Report and Word Of Mouth, and, indeed, Assisi finishes with a rollocking circular bass pattern much as Jaco Pastorius might have written.
Notice a degree of cynicism in some of these descriptions? You shouldn’t. It’s just the jaded critic feeling disconcerted by an enjoyable and thoroughly jolly album. As Sebastian Scotney sums it up in his liner note: “life-affirming”.
Categories: CD review