Sublime guitar lines that soar like birds of prey in the sky, daring harmonic innovations and immersive metric modulations to make your heart bleed with anguish, ecstasy and joy. These elements have been Raoul Björkenheim’s trademarks ever since the late 1980s when he burst on the European avantgarde scene - first in the ranks of Edward Vesala’s iconoclastic Sound & Fury and then as a bona-fide bandleader fronting his spirited jazzrock team Krakatau.
Even though a lifetime separates those incipient moments from today, he is still instantly recognizable in any configuration. Belieing his 64 years of age, the improviser and composer is still intrinsically the keen and owly-eyed prodigy heard on Vesala’s classic album Lumi.
One of the strongest threads running through Björkenheim’s progress as a musician is his undying love of John Coltrane’s music. It is actually surprising that he has only now recorded his interpretations of the saxophone giant’s works. Coupling the originals Volition and Solar Winds with five Coltrane tunes, the master guitarist shines a light on one of the reasons he has become such a force of nature in free jazz.
Bringing a most intriguing ingredient to the alembic is violinist Emanuele Parrini. Juxtaposed with the bandleader’s visceral expression, his prowess in contemporary classical music becomes the perfect technical counterpart to make the brew bubble and boil. Nevertheless, either him, bass player Silvia Bolognesi or veteran drummer Tiziano Tononi can’t help but be overpowered by the larger-than-life guitar art of Raoul Björkenheim.
RAOUL BJÖRKENHEIM: Solar Winds
Raoul Björkenheim: electric guitar
Silvia Bolognesi: contrabass
Tiziano Tononi: drums, percussion, gong
Emanuele Parrini: violin
Long Song Records, 2020