Finland’s Svart Records has rapidly earned a reputation as one of the best labels around for doom, occult folk, rock and metal, and other heavy musics. But lately, they’ve been broadening their scope with some really interesting side trips. Nomadic, a collaboration between legendary free jazz saxophonist Sonny Simmons and French psychedelic rock band Moksha Samnyasin, a throbbing, Indian-dub-drone disc reminiscent of ’70s Miles Davis or Tony Conrad and Faust‘s Outside the Dream Syndicate. And now, they’re releasing Hati Hati, the latest disc from Finnish saxophonist Eero Koivistoinen‘s quartet, which we’re premiering exclusively.
Koivistoinen is one of Finland’s most highly regarded jazz players; in 1967, he was the first recipient of the Yrjö (aka Georgie) Award from the Finnish Jazz Federation. In the 1970s, he studied at the Sibelius Academy and the Berklee School of Music. He was also a founding member of the UMO orchestra, and served as its artistic director from 1996 to 1998. On this disc, he’s backed by pianist Alexi Tuomarila, who performs regularly with Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko; bassist Jori Huhtala, who’s part of guitarist Raoul Björkenheim‘s Ecstasy (album review here) and works with trumpeter Tim Hagans, among others; and drummer Jussi Lehtonen, who’s also backed Hagans and performed on Koivistonen’s 2006 album X-Ray.
The music on Hati Hati—seven Koivistoinen originals, and an arrangement of Bob Dylan‘s “The Times They Are A-Changin'”—is straight-ahead, melodic post-bop, with absolutely no concessions to rock even in the Dylan tune. It was recorded in 2012 for Finnish radio; the saxophonist explains, “Svart Records was re-releasing my old vinyl The Original Sin and is planning to re-release some other old recordings of mine as well. I told Tomi [Pulkki, label head] that I have also new music and after listening he liked it and here we are! I’m happy that Svart Records is presenting both my old and new productions.” He adds, “The work what they do is excellent. Mastering is high quality and graphic artwork great too. Gatefold vinyls look gorgeous. It is also interesting to have a jazz recording out in a little different surroundings.”
The other members of the band are significantly younger than Koivistoinen, something he welcomes. He says, “I like to work with younger musicians. They have good energy level and I’m getting some fresh feedback. These days my bandmates are so well educated, and already experienced musicians, that I can learn from them!” He describes the state of Finnish jazz as good, with room for improvement: “We have many small festivals and a few jazz clubs here and there. Festivals like the biggest—Pori Jazz—can have big audiences. Otherwise jazz could have more audience; [there are] a lot of young good players who want to play. My three bandmates are also leading their own bands and productions and getting well known from those. I’m very happy to have such high caliber guys in the quartet.”