Aili Ikonen is an eminently competent Finnish jazz vocalist, representing the currently prevalent, readily identifiable expressive idiom. She is also a talented songwriter. Her album Suru ei oo suora viiva [Sorrow is not a straight line] is an excellent demonstration of her gift for writing music and lyrics inspired by nature, by her personal experiences and by her emotions.
Aili Ikonen gives powerful and original performances of her songs. Her focus is on the lyrics, which are quite unusual and a far cry from the usual clichés of song lyrics. They verbalise heartfelt feelings and thoughts in beautifully rhymed, meditative verse. The melancholy tint of the music provides a wonderful setting.
The opening track, Valo [Light], assumes the role of the title track – its opening line Valo ei oo suora viiva [Light is not a straight line] is a direct reference to the title of the album. The track traces a dramatic arc, starting with quiet piano, later joined by cello and then a full orchestra, finally returning to the opening calm mood.
Pisaroita pihlajassa [Raindrops on the rowan tree] is punctuated by an extensive passage of scat singing, and a similar passage appears at the end of Kevät [Spring]. In Läpi harmaan sumun [Through grey fog], trumpet player Janne Tuominen’s brief solo is followed by a rather surprising flamenco section. The most distinctive track on the album is the playfully rhymed and jocularly performed Sanat [Words].
Aili Ikonen is a breath of fresh air in the firmament of Finnish contemporary vocal artists and vocal jazz. I hope that she may yet be discovered by a wider audience.
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi
Aili Ikonen: Suru ei oo suora viiva
Aili Ikonen – vocals, violin
Janne Toivonen – trumpet, flugelhorn
William Suvanne – saxophones, flute and clarinet
Tuomas J. Turunen – piano, harmonium
Mikko Pellinen – double bass
Mikko Arlin – drums, percussion
Juho Kanervo – cello
Groovy Records, 2020
The Kuopio Symphony Orchestra’s online concert on April 23, 2021 at 7 pm EEST features Aili Ikonen and her band. Ikonen’s song collection will be premiered with a symphonic ensemble conducted by Jaakko Kuusisto. Watch the concert here.