Vocalist Riikka Keränen takes us by surprise with her debut A Vision of a Garden. On her first album as a leader, Keränen manages to bring forth both swinging originals and convincing scat improvisation. This is clearly not your average jazz vocalist plodding through standards!
The three originals by Keränen on the album get a fine treatment by the band that combines both veterans and newcomers of the Finnish jazz scene. The mix of old and new is at its best on the tune Cameroonian Sky, featuring Arttu Takalo on vibes and a duet with guest vocalist Matias Kiiveri. The presence of Takalo gives a beautiful boost to the energy levels of the tune.
The compositions by Keränen include wonderfully complex themes for vocal compositions. The sound of Riikka Keränen combines elements of post-bop jazz with tonalities and sensibilities of a more pop-oriented approach. The vocal mix on the album balances between these two traditions.
The deepest nods to the jazz tradition are on the two standard songs heard on A Vision of a Garden. On Irving Berlin's Say it Isn't So Keränen comes up with a re-harmonisation and a fresh feel for a classic.
Altogether the band and the vocalist are at their best in the more free flowing compositions such as the beginning and closing tunes The Little Mermaid I & II. This free flying vocal improvisation leaves the listener wanting for more.
Riikka Keränen: A Vision of a Garden
Riikka Keränen, vocals
Juho Valjakka, piano
Jori Huhtala, double bass
Anssi Tirkkonen, drums
Flame Jazz Records, 2022