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May 2006

Iro Haarla
Northbound
ECM Records

The great experimental Finnish drummer Edward Vesala has a secret weapon: His wife, Iro Haarla, helped orchestrate much of his music, including his last four albums for ECM with the Sound and Fury band. Vesala died in 1999, but only now is Haarla stepping out on her own with the label that released some of her husband’s most important works.

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Colin Eick

Iro Haarla

Haarla is a pianist and harpist—and her music is entirely Nordic in nature. Northbound is the sound of glaciers melting: slowly unfolding and gorgeously meditative. Her musicians—Trygve Seim (saxophones), Mathias Eick (trumpet), Uffe Krokfors (double bass) and Jon Christensen (drums)—are keenly sensitive to Haarla’s desolate lullabies, which all have a fractured fairytale quality about them.

Depending on your capacity for ECM-style jazz—and this is nothing but—you’ll either laugh at or nod in appreciation at the song titles: “On a Crest of a Wave,” “Waterworn Rocks,” “Veil of Mist,” “Light in the Sadness,” “A Singing Water Nymph.” (Need I go on?) But if you’re in any way beholden to the Nordic sound, then Northbound should find an immediate place on your CD shelves. It’s definitely found a home on mine.

Originally published in May 2006
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