Review: Alexi Tuomarila Trio

Michael Tucker listens in on the excellent Alexi Tuomarila Trio at the Turner Sims Hall, Southampton, whose set included a radical take on Bob Dylan

It was well worth missing a night of the London Jazz Festival for this November 19th session from the excellent autumn season at the Turner Sims Hall at the University of Southampton, from Finnish pianist Tuomarila and his trio with Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen and fellow Finn Olavi Louhivuori on drums. Their recent Seven Hills release on Edition Records, with its blend of lyrical albeit sometimes quirkily stepped themes and strong three-way rhythmic interaction, had whetted my appetite for the real thing and in the event, I was not disappointed.

Opening with an arco-introduced and subsequently pizzicato-expanded version of Tuomarila’s Pearl from the Seven Hills session, the pianist and his colleagues could have chosen to base most of the concert on further original material from a release which, understandably, they had for sale outside the concert hall. To their credit, they chose instead to offer a fair few brand new originals, as yet untitled: they also supplied what must be one of the simplest yet most radical recastings of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, with which they started the second set.

Tuomarila and Louhivuori spent productive time together in the Tomasz Stanko quintet which made the slaughteringly good Dark Eyes for ECM in 2009. Since then their understanding has continued to grow: Louhivuori offered many a subtle, spaciously conceived but crisply delivered cross-accent on sticks, brushes and sometimes hands alone to complement Tuomarila’s often richly trilling thematic elaborations of his ostensibly simple, reflective and intriguingly phrased themes, one of which was outlined in refreshingly direct waltz time.  Throughout, the excellent Eilertsen deployed his beautiful, dark and mellow sound to both lead melody and structural purpose, displaying considerable dynamic sensitivity while serving finger-clicking motion to lucid effect. If most of the first set evinced the sort of nudging or elliptical approach to matters of groove and swing typical of a fair amount of contemporary European jazz, as the second set developed the trio got deep in the pocket, with lengthy passages of changes-based playing, underlined by strong triplet-based grooves, offering some of the most compelling music of the night.

Sadly, the excellent Turner Sims concert hall was but a quarter full, if that. However, those who were present responded to the music with considerable warmth and enthusiasm. They were rewarded with an encore – again, of original material – from the trio, who, clearly, very much appreciated the reception their music had received. Let’s hope that austerity blues do not eat away at this first-class venue’s capacity to continue to offer music of such character and quality. On this evidence, contemporary jazz is very much alive and well: it only needs an audience…

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Your Comments:

Posted by Tapani Simojoki, 25 November 2013, 12:13 (1 of 1)

One correction: the encore was a take on 'King of Pain' by The Police.

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