The Finnish, Helsinki-based quartet OK:KO – drummer-leader-composer Okko Saastamoinen with sax player Jarno Tikka, pianist Toomas Keski-Säntti and bassist Mikael Saastamoinen (of Superposition and Linda Fredriksson’s Juniper) is considered a scene favorite in Finland. This quartet represents the new generation of Finnish jazz, with an adventurous yet accessible approach, and contemporary sound yet rooted in the lineage of acoustic small group jazz.
«Liesu» is the third album of OK:KO, and Okko Saastamoinen composed six pieces while Mikael Saastamoinen (not related to Okko Saastamoinen) added another one. Okko Saastamoinen recorded and mixed the album and co-produced the album with We Jazz’s Matti Nives, but he is a generous leader and insists on democratic, balanced interplay.
The music of this quartet is always melodic and the dynamics are emphatic and tight. Mikael Saastamoinen’s «Anima» offers the punchy side of OK:KO, deep in the jazz tradition. But OK:KO is a much more interesting unit when it shapes the jazz legacy with its own sound, like on the mysterious «Rieju» with its captivating theme and slow-cooking texture that brings to mind the Scandinavian quartet of Keith Jarrett. «Kirkkis» is introduced by an arco solo of Mikael Saastamoinen and suggests a beautiful yet melancholic folk melody, developed later into a playful jazz piece by Keski-Säntti, Tikka and Okko Saastamoinen. «Arvo» is a solemn, ritualist piece, and OK:KO sounds like it was paying its respects to the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. «Vanhatie» offers loose but spirited and highly playful dynamics of the quartet. The last piece, the touching ballad, «Yösalmi», returns to the reserved melancholic mode but in a poetic manner that stresses the strong individual voices of OK:KO.
Okko Saastamoinen (dr), Jarno Tikka (s), Toomas Keski-Säntti (p), Mikael Saastamoinen (b)