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På skive



One could say that the career of guitarist and composer Raul Björkenheim didn’t start until he in the early 1908’s got to his native Finland after spending his childhood and teenage years in the US. He soon found the right circles and fellow minded musicians after settling down to Helsinki.

After spending some time in several bands he soon founded Krakatau, a band with several line-ups and albums from the recording debut back in 1988 to two ECM albums «Volition» (1992) and «Matinale» (1994). In spite of being a kind of heavy jazz band with a strong free expression Krakatau was surprisingly popular band in Finnish jazz circles. Nowadays Krakatau makes occasional gigs with four Senegalese percussionists.

Later on Björkenheim has had a long and fruitful collaboration with the strong Norwegian rhythm dynamo of bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Scorch, as this trio was named, has released six albums and made quite a lot of gigs all around on on-and-off basis during the years.

Aside the above mentioned activities Björkenheim has collaborated with a.o. Bill Laswell, Mats Gustafsson, Andrew Cyrille and, lately, as a duo, with Juhani Aaltonen. Nowadays he mainly leads EcStAcY (quartet) and Triad.

As a guitarist Björkenheim’s sound world is confusingly rich and definitely distinguished. He gets such sounds out of his instrument which normally don’t belong there. They can be flashing, full of fire and energy or even scary demonic. Add to that his individual concept of harmonics and you can hear unbelievable, yet always intriguing, guitar solos.

The strong guitar work needs strong rhythmic pulse, too, and that’s what Björkenheim gets from bassist Ville Rauhala and, especially, from Ilmari Heikinheimo on drums. The music as a whole isn’t just power jazz as such. Björkenheim is a wizard in creating amazingly changing variable moods from piece to piece.

After the spooky warming up with «Act of Will», Triad goes to «Move On», with a boisterous drum intro developing into hard swinging rhythm with coarse guitar playing. Following next is a rubato feeling «Defiance» which takes listeners far away into space (or even beyond that). Another space odyssey is «Beyond», a very different far out voyage from «Defiance» by its mood.

The compositional credits of «The Rain Is Over» are marked for Björkenheim but that is not the real truth here. Björkenheim sinfully deals with coarse grip the old and well known «Somewhere Over The Rainbow» very much the way as Jimi Hendrix handled the US national anthem some 50 years ago in Woodstock.

The long, many charateristic segments consisting «Petals» is perhaps the clearest piece of the album. The rhythms and harmonics are ‘easy’ (compared to most Triad’s stuff) and so are the melody lines, whether thematic or improvised.

The ugly sounding «Katarsis» is a real show case for drummer Ilmari Heikinheimo who plays as a main soloist here. His drumming is an essential element also in the crazy and somewhat funny rhythmic «Blunt Stunt».

Triad’s debut album is a welcome newcomer to Björkenheim’s longish and ever interesting discography. It also shows a big potential of this rather fresh trio.

Timo Vähäsilta

Raoul Björkenheim (g), Ville Rauhala (b), Ilmari Heikinheimo (dr, perc)

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