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Jarmo Savolainen: Songs for Trio

My only previous experience of Jarmo Savolainen’s music is soloduotrio, also on KSJAZZ, which I reviewed in the Oct. 2005 issue of this magazine. I said then that Savolainen belonged “with northern Europe’s finest pianists, like Bobo Stenson and Marcin Wasilewski and Tord Gustavsen.” Songs for Trio strengthens that belief.

It is a more aggressive, more extroverted work than soloduotrio, but Savolainen is so deeply lyrical a player that he usually sounds like he is playing a romantic ballad, regardless of tempo. He writes lines that are fresh to the ear, but the excitement comes when he builds out from them. He is a pianist for whom ideas immediately generate new ideas and his process is like a river flowing upward. Climaxes turn out to be plateaus followed by more crescendos. The sense of creative energy feeding on itself is reminiscent of Keith Jarrett. “Spider Ballad” is just one example of how Savolainen is able to keep topping himself in the space of four minutes.

A jazz musician can define a personal aesthetic not only with original compositions but with choices from the works of others. The one disappointment of this album is that Savolainen (in stark contrast to Jarrett) never allows us to hear what his interesting imagination might do with a standard, or at least with music we have heard before.

Originally Published