The quartet OK:KO seems to be in the fast lane. With drummer Okko Saastamoinen (b. 1995) as leader, the band was launched in 2015 as the O. Saastamoinen Quartet. Then the group won the Finnish leg of Young Nordic Jazz Comets. Following a change of name, Syrtti is OK:KO’s second album.
The music is composed by Saastamoinen, except for one tune by pianist Toomas Keski-Säntti. However, the piano often claims the lead. Yet the dynamics of this band are contemporary, with all four instruments having equal exposure. Bass player Mikael Saastamoinen and saxophonist Jarno Tikka are in no way left in the shadows.
Tikka has a good, solid sound, John Coltrane being an obvious influence. Actually, the title tune is quite reminiscent of the music of Coltrane’s classic 1960s quartet. However, that impression changes as one listens to the album from start to finish. The band definitely has ideas of their own and the chops to execute them. The music has a spontaneous feel. This is maybe best felt on Kiipeli (an old Finnish word meaning ‘strait’ or ‘being in a difficult position’), the ten-plus-minute effort that concludes the album.
Okko Saastamoinen (drums)
Jarno Tikka (sax)
Toomas Keski-Säntti (piano)
Mikael Saastamoinen (bass)
We Jazz Records 2019WJCD11
Syrtti is one of the seven works nominated for the Teosto Prize 2020.