in Reviews

Third Stream, the new Finnish rendition

by Petri Silas

"Veering from the vast, brooding and sedate [- -] to the petite, playful and sanguine [- -], the group establishes a solid interface of unique inventions."

Labels intended to characterize different categories and varieties of art often have an artificial feel to them. A perfect exception to prove this rule, ”Chamber Jazz” is a concise, comprehensive handle that illustrates the genre it represents flawlessly. How better to describe music that operates in the grey zone between chamber music and jazz?

This is the interim space where Helsinki-based foursome Ainon make their home. Veering from the vast, brooding and sedate (album opener Kruununhaka) to the petite, playful and sanguine (title track Drought), the group establishes a solid interface of unique inventions.

Founded in 2017 by cellist Aino Juutilainen (”Ainon” translates into ”Aino’s”, i.e. it is the genitive form of the band leader’s name), the collective brings her together with violinist Satu-Maija Aalto, woodwinder Suvi Linnovaara and drummer Joonas Leppänen.

As the ensemble’s treatments make the components overlap, their individual backgrounds also come to the limelight. In much the same way that cellist Erik Friedlander’s expression is heavily informed by klezmer or how pianist Brad Mehldau always draws on the Americana songbook, the roots of Ainon lie deep in local folklore. In effect, Drought can’t help but come across as a thoroughly Finnish-sounding entity.

It may be more than sixty years since New Yorker composer Gunther Schuller’s Third Stream research and his vanguardian works ”located about halfway between jazz and classical music”, but the aftershocks still reverberate around the world. With their compelling debut, Ainon show that even though everything new and radical eventually becomes dated and commonplace, its inner spirit and drive can blossom through time.

AINON: Drought

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