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På skive

JUSSI REIJONEN

«Three Seconds | Kolme Toista»
CHALLENGE, CR 73545

Finnish-born guitarist-oud player-composer Jussi Reijonen has spent his formative years moving from Rovaniemi in the Arctic circle of Finnish Lapland, to Amman of Jordan, Dar es Salaam of Tanzania, Muscat of Oman, Beirut of Lebanon and Boston of the United States, soaking up the sounds, sights, scents and shades of Nordic, Middle Eastern, African and American cultures. These influences were channeled into his second album as a bandleader, Three Seconds | Kolme Toista, following his 2013 debut album, un | ان  (Unmusic).

The album was recorded at Power Station in New England in June 2021. The Finnish title of the album reflects an encounter between three strangers, and Reijonen thinks of it as a revelatory experience of suddenly seeing what had previously been unseen, a vision of distinctly different designs merging into kaleidoscopic unity, and achieving symbiosis while simultaneously maintaining their uniqueness. Reijonen dedicated this album to his parents and his grandfather, a trumpeter, and to the late Lebanese oud player Bassam Saba, his friend and mentor and died of complications of Covid-19 in Beirut in 2020.

Reijonen leads a nine-piece, international ensemble of American, Turkish, Jordanian-Iraqi, Palestinian and Japanese musicians. Reijonen composed a beautiful five-movement suite for the ensemble that unconsciously unravels his personal dilemmas and doubts and eventually begins to transcend them, as well as unpacks and transcends the interlaced cultural threads within his multicultural experience, focusing on the ever-present feeling of being welcomed yet never truly belonging. The ensemble resonates with Reijonen’s open and encompassing musical vision that owes much to the Finnish Arctic’s open spaces and silences, the Arabic maqamat, the rich rhythms of Africa and the improvisatory spirit of American jazz, and suggests an original language and sound entirely of its own. The opening piece, «The Vail», flirts with an Arabic-tinged melody but, still,  does not give itself fully to the Arabic maqam. The following «Transient» is introduced by the haunting violin of Layth Sidiq and Reijonen’s yearning oud solo and is already rooted in sensual and dramatic Middle-Eastern sounds and rhythmic patterns.

The third part in the suite, «The Weaver, Every So Often Shifting the Sands Beneath Her», is more reserved and introspective but is also evocative and exotic, and employs cleverly the orchestral scope of the ensemble abstracting a melancholic theme. «Verso» (to sprout in Finnish) suggests a powerful fusionists sonic synthesis that swings freely within the vast multicultural experiences of Reijonen. The last part, the impressionistic and emotional «Median», with its ECM-like chamber jazz spirit, sounds like resolving Reijonen’s personal and musical conflicts and tensions and offering a peaceful and comforting conclusion, where one can celebrate the possibilities inherent in growth, the transformative destinations reached, and those still to come.

Eyal Hareuveni

Jussi Reijonen (fretted g, fretless g, oud),  Jason Palmer (tp, flh), Vancil Cooper (dr), Kyle Miles (fretless el.b, b), Bulut Gülen (tb), Utar Artun (microtonal p), Layth Sidiq (vio), Naseem Alatrash (c), Keita Ogawa (perc)

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