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Reviews: Karuna Hyvaa matkaa (Bon Voyage); and Anders Jormin, Karin Nelson, & Jonas Simonson, Songs in Meantone

Hyvaa matkaa (Bon Voyage)
[Aania 17 (2010)]

Anders Jormin
Karin Nelson
Jonas Simonson
Songs in Meantone
[Footprint FRCD055 (20110}

Two new releases by Scandinavian trios that explore the boundaries of where folk and Jazz meet.

The Finnish music trio Karuna features three keyboard players, Esko Jarvela (Frigg, Baltic Crossing) on Nyckelharpa or keyed fiddle, Teija Niku (Polka Chicks) on accordion and Juha Kujanpaa on piano and harmonium. Kujanpaa composed and arranged all the material (with the exception of the lovely “Caroli Waltz” written by Niku), which combine Nordic folk influences (“Polska at Night”), with classical (the opening track “Sonnet no. 1”) and Jazz (“Seventh Floor”). The ensemble playing is polished with an easy melodic flow between the three musicians, with guest musicians adding in guitar, percussion, and double bass. The music is playful and engaging and another example of the ease that Nordic musicians combine various influences into new sounds. [www.aania.fi]

Songs in Meantone is a unique collaboration between jazz bassist Anders Jormin, organist Karin Nelson and Groupa flautist Jonas Simonson. The meeting point between the three was the baroque organ and its unique meantone tuning, which challenged the players to find the proper key that all the instruments could play in. While each musician brought their own musical ideas to the project, it’s bassist Anders Jormin’s playing and background as a jazz artist that has the most influence on the arrangements and music. Simonson’s composition, “Crane Halling/Haridji-halling is the most traditional sounding piece, where Nelson brings in a Gregorina chant, “Magnificant” and a classical influenced piece “Tornsater/Bingsjopolskan.” Most interesting is the two improvisational pieces, Feu” and “Air” which again show strong jazz influences and harken back to some of the work Jormin recorded for the ECM jazz label. It’s challenging yet richly rewarding music by three musicians finding the common ground between three different musical disciplines. It’s not folk music, jazz music or classical, but a meaningful middle ground. Highly recommended. [www.footprintrecords.com]

—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)

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