Richly Tuneful Middle Eastern Jazz from Jussi Reijonen
These days, with the web having demolished pretty much every musical boundary, it’s no more surprising to discover an inspired Finnish oud player like Jussi Reijonen than it would be to happen upon an Egyptian playing perfectly traditionalist Finnish fiddle music. Reijonen also plays guitar; his new album Un is one of the most deliciously eclectic, interesting releases in recent months, equal parts jazz and Middle Eastern music. Much of this is up at his youtube channel.
The album opens with Serpentine, a lithely intertwining levantine groove that wouldn’t be out of place in the Marcel Khalife catalog. Utar Artun‘s elegant piano solo is followed by a spiky oud/bass duel that reaches toward skronk for a bit, picking up with a clenched-teeth intensity before winding down to a rapt misterioso interlude, then up again. Playing fretless guitar, Reijonen transforms Coltraine’s Naima into a spacious wide-open-skies theme over Bruno Raberg’s majestically minimalist bass pulse, lowlit by Artun’s otherworldly, chromatically-fueled glimmer.
Reijonen’s oud mingles with Ali Amr‘s spikily resonant qanun on the gorgeously shapeshfifting Bayatiful. A trickily rhythmic intro, metric shifts and sweepingly cinematic, bittersweetly Egyptian-flavored motifs wind their way to an eerily twinkling chromatic piano solo, handing off to a long, rapturously rippling one from the qanun. A spaciously reflective piece for guitar and Tareq Rantisi’s percussion follows, with echoes of Malian desert blues.
Reijonen’s sitar-like fretless guitar duets with the bass on Nuku Sie, evocative of Dave Fiuczynski’s recent work. The album closes with Kaiku, the twin-percussion groove of Rantisi and Sergio Martinez underpinning a nebulously haunting theme lit up by chanteuse Eva Louhivuori’s bracingly crystalline vocalese.
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