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«Ode To The Death Of Jazz”
ECM 1413

Not many jazz albums have got so much international debate right after their release as Edward Vesala’s (1945-1999) second ECM album with his Sound and Fury ensemble, «Ode ToThe Death Of Jazz». The debate wasn’t so much about the music but about the title (!).

Jazz journalists everywhere, especially in England but, noteworthly not in Finland, were often just shocked about this provocative title. Some (most, actually) were against it. ‘Insulting’, ‘coarse’, ‘disgraceful’ were some words attached to it. Some of those few who liked the title used, for example, the word ‘prophetical’.

Knowing Vesala personally for many many years before «Ode ToThe Death Of Jazz» release (1990) I know exactly why he picked up such a title for this album (but that remains, at least for the time being, as a secret). Well, not quite, I’m just teasing you. Actually the story behind the title has been quite thoroughfully told in Steve Lake’s splendid liner notes (CD version only).

But that’s enough about the title. The music itself, however, was quite unanimously well received. ‘Excellent’, ‘outstanding’, ‘first class’ and so on were words used about the musical content no matter who the rewiever was and what he thought about the title. And, as an amusing detail which has to be told, Edward Vesala Sound and Fury was invited to an extensive Great Britain (where the controversial debate had mostly been going on) tour a few years later…

During Vesala’s long career he made very diverse music. Boldly strong free jazz, children’s music, a percussion solo album (and gigs), theatre music, ballads with singers and so on and so on. The long partnership with trumpeter Tomasz Stanko must be remembered, too. Those two were inseparable soul mates.

«Ode ToThe Death Of Jazz» brings many Vesala’s musical basic elements s together. With Sound and Fury he had an almost perfect tool to present his musical ideas. The music is essential Vesala. It is very often dark and gloomy, even anguishing or claustrophobic might someone describe it. It is also noisy, almost heavy rockish and hard boiling. The melodic ballads shouldn’t be forgotten either. Ode contains all that.

The album starts calmly with «Sylvan Swizzle». Infinte Express has kind of oriental flavours like a camel caravan going through a desert. There are swinging rhythms (not in the traditional sense) and a lot of dissonances (typical Vesala). Jorma Tapio’s altosax solo is worth listening to.

Fast tempo, dissonances and strong beat describe «Winds Of Sahara». Right after that «Watching For The Signal» has again a completely different mood. Slow, balladlike tempo, flutes, harp, muted trumpet and Haarla’s keyboards give the basics for lovely saxophone solos.

«Mop Mop» is quite heavy stuff whereas What? Where? «Hum Hum» starts moderately and then developes to more expressive tones.

One single composition differs a lot of the rest of the material here. It is kind of boisterous tango «A Glimmer Of Sepal». It has a beautiful melody, a lot of melancholy – as always in Finnish tangos (in Minor) which is completely another thing than Argentinian tango (in major). Here, though, Vesalas’s version of tango is sort of mixture of them both. Great accordion playing by a visiting maestro Taito Vainio.

Sound and Fury was originally a product of ‘Vesala Academy’, a serie of a few open workshops organised by The Finnish Jazz Federation. Finally Sound and Fury was put together from part of those students. Many Sound and Fury members have made their own international career, too. For example Iro Haarla, Raoul Björkenheim (here already replaced by Jimi Sumen), bass player Ulf ‘Uffe’ Krokfors and multi reed player Pepa Päivinen.

Vesala.’s strong impact among many Finnish musicians has been huge and is clearly heard, even among the youngsters ones who never participated the workshops. Same can be said of many other musicians all around outside Finland.

This certainly is some music worth listening to. Don’t be afraid of the title!

Timo Vähäsilta

Matti Riikonen (tp), Jorma Tapio (as, bcl, fl), Jouni Kannisto (ts, fl), Pepa Päivinen (ss, ts, brs, fl, cl, bcl), Tim Ferchen (marimba, tubular bells), Taito Vainio (acc), Iro Haarla (p, harp, keys), Jimi Sumen (g), Uffe Krokfors (b), Edward Vesala (dr).

One Response to “EDWARD VESALA”

  1. John Kelman

    Nice review, Jan! The only thing I’d add is the significance of Iro Haarla on Vesala’s compositions. Things changed, big time, when they met and began working together (leading to more). Otherwise, I’m with ya 100% on this record!


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