Lucid Culture


Jussi Reijonen Holds the Crowd Rapt Uptown

Wednesday night uptown at Shrine, Jussi Reijonen alluded that the quiet, reflective compositions from his new album Un might be liberating to New Yorkers looking to escape the afterwork bustle outside. Was he ever right. To describe Reijonen’s music, or his quartet onstage as cosmopolitan would be a considerable understatement. Respectively, guitarist/oudist Reijonen, pianist Utar Artun, bassist Brad Barrett and percussionist Tareq Rantisi represent for Finland, Turkey, California and Palestine. While Reijonen’s work, and his playing, span the emotional spectrum, there’s a searching quality to much of it that haunted this performance. He mused to the audience that this might have something to do with a childhood spent in the stillness of Lapland at the edge of the Arctic circle.

Reijonen’s lively, acerbically dancing oud led the band into the opening number, Rantisi’s nonchalantly triumphant cymbal crashes pairing against Artun’s starlit piano flourishes over stark washes from Barrett. An animatedly nocturnal, chromatically bristling Artun solo over a slinky rhythm wound down to a creepily mysterious, modal glimmer and then back up again, Reijonen then taking it in a stark, haunting direction evocative of Marcel Khalife.

While Rantisi had a full drum kit to work with, he colored the songs with boomy hand drum accents, played muffled hoofbeat rhythms on the toms with his hands and nebulous atmospherics with his brushes, ratcheting up the suspense. Likewise, Barrett alternated between long-tone pitchblende lines and agile, looping phrases, adding a minimalist pulse to an absolutely mystical take of John Coltrane’s Naima, Reijonen’s electric guitar bringing it to a rapturous, meditative but uneasy calm, equal parts Messiaen and Bill Frisell, Artun livening it with a pointillistic summer shower on the high keys.

They played Lorenzo Castelli’s Decisions, a gorgeously brooding jazz waltz, as a sonata of sorts, its theme and variations like waves on a rising tide driven by Artun’s sparkling, sometimes sinister crescendos. Reijonen followed with a homage to Toumani Diabate in a duo with Rantisi, energetically evoking spiky kora voicings that uncoiled with a serpentine, hypnotic energy.

And then a turmpet mysteriously wafted into the mix. Was there a ringer in the band walking in from offstage? No. The bartender had apparently decided he’d had enough of the band, so he’d put some high-energy Afrobeat on the house PA – while the set was still in progress! The same thing happened to Raya Brass Band a couple of weeks ago at Radegast Hall. Some people can’t buy a clue, and it’s too bad they work at music venues.

June 14, 2013 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | jazz, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment