in Reviews

Stirring spiritual jazz

by Wif Stenger

“Loose-limbed and ecstatic, this live set is a refreshing change and hopefully a harbinger of things to come.”

Recorded live at churches and a concert hall in the Helsinki area, this is an impressive debut for pianist Pekka Toivonen, who has composed choral songs, string quartets, soundtracks and radio jingles, designed heavy metal album covers and appeared with various bands including electro-duo LCMDF.

This brief six-track LP floats over the boundaries of free and mainstream jazz, folk, gospel and classical. It begins with sensitive solo piano on For Elise, which owes more to Satie than Beethoven. Teemu Keränen’s double bass and Hannu Kropsu’s “eclectic guitar” lead into Long Shower, joined by heroic saxophone work from Ilkka Ferm.

I.B.A.O. is a loose, rambunctious ensemble conversation of the kind pioneered by the Charles Mingus and Sun Ra bands, complete with space-is-the-place theremin from Susanna Sirén – stirring stuff.

Side two again begins with a brief piano solo before the epic band sound kicks in on My Space, live at St. Paul’s Church with a big, thrilling echoey drum sound from Perttu Lindberg. The finale is Trip, an exquisite classical duet co-written by and featuring trumpeter Miia Reko.

Loose-limbed and ecstatic, this live collection is a refreshing change from sterile studio recordings, and hopefully a harbinger of things to come.

PEKKA TOIVONEN ENSEMBLE: In the Bottom of the Ancient Ocean
2019 Kasino Records / Svart Records KCP004 SVART212