Finnish Jazz. Rewiev. Kuara

Markku Ounaskari - Kuara

ECM Records – ECM 2116 – 2010

Markku Ounaskari: drums

Samuli Mikkonen: piano

Per Jørgensen: trumpet, voice

Interview with Markku Ounaskari

Kuara can be conceptually tied to that work of discovering and reinterpretation of the world music traditions upon which label ECM has always focused its attention. Jan Garbarek’s Norwegian folk music, Dino Saluzzi’s Argentinian tango and Italian “Banda” tradition of latest Gianluigi Trovesi works, among others, have so far been hosted in ECM recordings.

Now, this album, conceived and led by Finnish drummer Markku Ounaskari, fill the gap concerning finnish music tradition. Even better, it ventures beyond, onto its roots in fenno-ugrian countries like Karelia, Vepsia and Udmurtia, until reaching its connections with russian music.

The Cd opens with Polychronion a Russian psalm, introduced by pianist Samuli Mikkonen shortly joined by Norwegian trumpet player Per Jorgensen who intervenes singing the melody. The term “singing” is properly used when speaking about the veteran musician who delight us with a suggestive exposure on trumpet of the main theme of Tuuin, Tuuin, a karelian folk song, built upon bending notes resembling a human voice; an approach fitting very well with the original vocal form present in most of this music, often related to ancient pagan rites.

Soldat Keljangúr is a recruit song enriched by the evocative, real, voice of Jorgensen who offers a touching performance, the same voice we can hear on the closing piece Sjan Gúr, an udmurtian “wedding song”, in which the Norwegian musician reproduces the sad lament of a mother loosing her daughter.

Among the pieces, piano and drum let theirself go to extemporary dialogues always faithful to the concept of the recording, creating melodies echoing ancient songs.

Mikkonen pianism is very suitable to the well known sound aesthetics of the german label, as he works on the original melodies through weight subtraction and subtle harmonizations, leading the music to a rarified and ethereal dimension.

Drummer and leader Markku Ounaskari keeps the many musical threads of the album, focusing on an horizontal, suspended and many faceted drumming.

Kuà ra can be considered a fascinating and philologically conceived recording, able to put the involved musicians in comparison with their musical past, at the same time strengthening their modern identity.