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Mika Pohjola: Live at the Blue Note

Recorded and released without Half Note label authorization, pianist Mika Pohjola (the 26-year-old son of a Helsinki-based jazz guitarist), forged ahead to self-produce and release this Live at the Blue Note CD with bassist Matt Penman and Roberto Dani. New York-based since 1995, Pohjola shows abundant technique on this Sept. 23, 1996, set, yet his trio collectively lacks self-assurance, warmheartedness and true jazz feeling when compared with the bona fide Half Note recordings above. Nine originals draw from Pohjola’s classical training, folk music and city sounds, but fail to fully engage the listener-probably because they’re all over the map and you don’t get a clear notion of Pohjola’s style and intent. Pohjola shows most imagination in creating melodies that lean to the flowery classical side (he admires Bach, Debussy, Messiaen). At times, Pohjola’s playing can be tentative and passionless, with some ideas truncated before they’re fully developed. No doubt he’s more seasoned today.

Originally Published