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Reviews: Nordic Choro and Jaakko Laitinen & Vaara Raha

Nordic Choro
Nordic Choro
[Annia 18 (2010)]

Jaakko Laitinen & Vaara Raha
Jaakko Laitinen & Vaara Raha
[Helmi Levyt Helmi038 (2010)]

Two new recordings from Finland, both in very un-Finnish styles.

Nordic Choro formed in 2008. The trio plays mostly contemporary compositions by Jarmo Romppanen, who draws his inspiration from Brazilian choro music and Nordic fiddle styles. Romppanen, who plays a 10-string mandolin, is joined by Fabio de Oliveira on 7-string guitar and Anders Perander on percussion. The music reflects it’s Brazilian roots much more than it’s Nordic ones, with bright up-tempo tunes powered along by lively percussion. Guest musicians add accordion, soprano-sax, fiddle and mandolin, helping to widen the range of sounds. It’s fun, non-serious music and is best appreciated in that light. [www.aania.fi; www.jarmoromppanen.net]

Singer Jaakko Laitinen and the band Vaara Raha might originate in Finnish Lapland, but their hearts are in the Balkans. Jaakko Laitinen is a crooner in the old style, suave and sophisticated, and, through he sings in Finnish, his sense of longing on the topics of love, life, happiness and of course, drink, come shining through any language barriers. The musicians (on drums, acoustic bass, accordion and trumpet) play it fast and fiery, no doubt from the need to generate heat on those long, cold Finnish winter nights. The songs, mostly original, mix in bits of gypsy rhythms, Russian romances, Balkan beats and even Finnish tangos. This recording is short and sweet—36 minutes of escape from the far frozen north. [www.helmilevyt.com; http://www.myspace.com/mrjaakko%5D

—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)

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