Ilmiliekki Quartet (roughly translates from Finnish as Quartet Ablaze) is an elite unit of the Finnish jazz scene, featuring trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, pianist Tuomo Prättälä, double bass player Antti Lötjönen and drummer Olavi Louhivuori, but released its last album as quartet in 2006 («Take It With Me», TUM). Since then the quartet accompanied vocalist Emma Salokoski on two albums.
And, obviously, there is no better way for Ilmiliekki Quartet to celebrate its comeback other than opening and closing its new album, «Land Of Real Men», with interpretations of real strong women. Laurie Anderson’s alternative hit from 1981 «O Superman» opens this album and is arranged magnificently. Pohjola repeats the futuristic, androgynous phrasing of Anderson’ synthesized voice, but charges her enigmatic recitations with urgency, warmth and subtle pathos. Prättälä sets the minimalist, repetitive pulse while Lötjönen and Louhivuori wisely color the emotional flights of Pohjola.
It may be impossible to surpass such a brilliant interpretation, but Ilmiliekki Quartet has much more to say. Pohjola keeps leading the quartet on Prättälä’s, powerful «Singharat Soi 1». Prättälä turns Louhivuori’s delicate ballad «Afterimage» into an exotic statement with preparations of the piano strings, resonated gently by the bow work of Lötjönen and the cymbals of Louhivuori. Pohjola’s «Twisted Thistle» and the title-piece offer dramatic, muscular narratives that highlight the strong and very personal voices of these four real men. Pohjola’s beautiful, reserved ballad «Il Maleki» is spiced with some sparks of melancholia and impressive solos by him and Prättälä. Prättälä deepens this emotional vein on his fragile song «Ravelogue». The Quartet concludes with another surprising cover, this time of Canadian singer-songwriter Feist, «Lonely Lonely» (from «Let It Die», Arts & Craft, 2004), enriching its gentle, melodic theme with fiery power.
You – real men and real women – should take a walk in this «Land Of Real Men».
Verneri Pohjola (tp), Tuomo Prättälä (p), Antti Lötjönen (b), Olavi Louhivuori (dr)