in Reviews

Keeping it free through the generations

by Petri Silas

"At times surprisingly groovy, at others surreptitiously enticing, Vodjanoi is free jazz for the future."

When Hot Heros began life in 2015, the band members already had a wealth of miles in their odometers. Saxophonist Sami Sippola and bassist Ville Rauhala had just spent the ten preceding years with influential free jazz trio Black Motor while drummer Janne Tuomi had performed and recorded with them both, separately and together, in far too many line-ups to count.

But in comparison with pianist Iro Haarla, they were and remain rookies. Adept at free expression ever since the late 1970s, Haarla’s big claim to fame is arranging her husband Edward Vesala’s music for the legendary Sound & Fury unit and touring with them as harpist and keyboard player.

Perhaps the conjunction of the Grand Lady of Finnish free jazz and the leading Gen X band of the same genre was destined to happen. Perhaps the Vodjanoi, i.e. the male water sprites of Slavic mythology, made it so. One way or another, this meandering joint venture is a palpable victory. At times surprisingly groovy, at others surreptitiously enticing, Vodjanoi is free jazz for the future – not of the past.

And just like their predecessors, Haarla and the Heros come carrying a topical social message. Where Ornette Coleman, Muhal Richard Abrams and other American trendsetters of the 1960s suppported the Black Power movement, their Finnish successors shine a light on the most pivotal global issue of the 2020s. All life on Earth is threatened by the climate crisis and no one is exempt from responsibility. This is why the foursome printed a motto by 19th century author and educator Zachris Topelius on the sleeve of this album. Translated, it reads: ”Wilderness is the requisite state of nature because it tells us what we are and what we must be.”


2020 Karkia Mistika Records