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OK:KO is a Finnish quartet led by drummer Okko Saastamoinen and featuring sax player Jarno Tikka, who plays in another Helsinki-based group, Alder Ego, double bass player Mikael Saastamoinen, who already released his solo album «Perussastamala» (Self Produced, 2016) but is not related to Okko Saastamoinen, and pianist Toomas Keski-Säntti. All four musicians represent the young generation of Finnish jazz and are in their early to mid-twenties. «Syrtti» is the sophomore album of OK:KO, following «Land E.» (AMP, 2017) (read the review on salt-peanuts.eu HERE.)

OK:KO aesthetics are rooted deeply in spiritual jazz. The six compositions of Okko Saastamoinen and another one by Keski-Säntti emphasize the quartet’s tight and emphatic teamwork, established during constant tours since releasing the debut album. Tikka with his big and warm sax sound, soulful, lush phrases and charismatic presence – especially on the powerful, title-piece – set the atmosphere of all pieces. But after he sings the the themes all the musicians are welcomed to bring their own vocabularies and ideas to the playful interplay of the quartet. Pianist Keski-Säntti adds a dimension of depth and introspection – especially on his composition, «Piik» – and the rhythm section of the two Saastamoinen never rests and always charge the interplay with restless energy, but without rushing anything.

«Soma», the first single from «Syrtti», offers different dynamics, more disciplined and lyrical and in a kind of left-off-center pop song format. Here OK:KO build a layered interplay where each layer echoes different aspects of the theme. OK:KO deepens this disciplined vein on the minimalist «Sun Sleep», where Tikka sings an innocent, folky theme. The last, 11-minutes «Kiipeli» is the only piece that comes close to the energetic peaks of the opening, title-piece, but after a careful and long developing of the powerful interplay.

Eyal Hareuveni

Okko Saastamoinen (dr), Jarno Tikka (s), Toomas Keski-Säntti (p), Mikael Saastamoinen (b)

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