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Klaus Suonsaari/Frank Carlberg: Offering

The very antithesis of the feel-good Papa Jo Jones aesthetic can be heard on Offering (KSJazz), a decidedly nonswinging but nonetheless intriguing duet project between Finnish musicians Klaus Suonsaari on drums and Frank Carlberg on piano. Cutting a wide stylistic swath while flaunting an obvious command of their instruments, Suonsaari and Carlberg run the gamut from gentle, ECM-ish textural pieces like “Suker,” “Motion” and the title track to dense, whirlwind pieces like the aptly named “Whack!” and “Frantic” to a humorous, Zappa-influenced jazz parody, “Broadway,” from the bizarro circus music of “Tivoli” to an avant-garde deconstruction of the jazz standard “Tea for Two.” From track to track these two kindred spirits demonstrate an easy chemistry together marked by a healthy blend of humor and fearlessness.

That same open-minded spirit of adventure prevails on their quartet project Portrait in Sound (KSJazz), which also features bassist Julian F. Thayer and the vastly underrated multireedman Scott Robinson (a member of Joe Lovano’s Nonet). Whether it’s ethereal, ECM-ish fare like “Offering” or the darkly delicate “Folk Song,” both underscored by Suonsaari’s Paul Motian-esque brushwork, Zen-like excursions into gong music, as on “Likeness,” or more blatantly aggressive free-jazz fare like “Chipshot” and “Wherewithal” or the Albert Ayler-ish “JK’s Woven Hat,” this boldly improvising quartet deals in heightened and immediate interplay. And Suonsaari’s considerable skills as a drummer, along with his expansive vocabulary on the kit, allow him to react instantly and with strong conviction no matter what the setting.

More people in the U.S., particularly free-jazz fans, should get to know about this creative percussive colorist from Finland.

Originally Published