By Michael Ullman
Jussi Reijonen, Three Seconds/ Kolme Toista (Problem Data)
The music comes out of an prolonged private disaster; the compositions discovered listed here are a testomony to a musician regaining his voice.
The duvet of Jussi Reijonen’s new disc, Three Seconds/ Kolme Toista, reveals the guitarist up shut, separating a string shade with each palms. As he components this veil (“behold, the veil of the temple was hire in twain”) he stares soberly into the digital camera and at us. It’s an indication of the seriousness of this piece, a five-movement suite written for a nonet. The composition signifies the top of what he tells us was a nine-year interval in his life that he skilled as a blur. The music, subsequently, comes out of an prolonged private disaster; the compositions discovered listed here are a testomony to a musician regaining his voice. The instrumentation is exclusive, and so is the background of the assorted musicians: Jason Palmer on trumpet and flugelhorn; Bulut Gülen on trombone; Layth Sidiq, violin; Naseem Alatrash, cello; Utar Artun, piano; Kyle Miles, bass; Keita Ogawa, percussion; and Vancil Cooper on drums. The musicians, Reijonen informs us, are from Jordan/Iraq, Palestine, Turkey, Japan, and the US. He wrote his suite with every particular person in thoughts, permitting every to specific himself as a part of the collective.
In his notes, Reijonen explains that he was born in Finnish Lapland, and introduced up “in Amman, Dar es Salaam, Muscat and Beirut for a big a part of my childhood.” He’s formed “by the dynamic counterpoint between Finnish, Jordanian, Tanzanian, Omani, Lebanese, and American cultures.” It hasn’t been totally snug. The brand new album comes after a tumultuous interval in his personal life throughout which he tried to “pull aside” as he grappled with conflicting patterns in his life: one concerned his private multiculturalism, the opposite his household, “a household fractured partially by the non-public, generational, and cultural dissonances between the threads that join us.” He was caught in between and, if I learn him appropriately, felt fractured. He wasn’t in a position to make music. Oddly, the Covid period gave him a possibility to retreat and reexamine the inhibiting pressures. “I out of the blue noticed in a brand new mild previous patterns whose acquainted presences I spotted I had felt for a lot of my life, however had till then by no means seen for what they had been.” He began to compose once more, or as he put it, “new music began to come back.… And with the music got here readability.” He emerged from behind the veil and, to make use of his personal metaphor, rewove his character as he made this music, although which he found “a more true extra full reflection of the place I come from, who I’m, and possibly who I’m nonetheless turning into.”
The suite begins with “The Veil.” Reijonen strums a chord on his guitar, which he lets grasp within the air. There’s a pause, after which the solo cello superbly states the brief melody that underlies the motion, and the suite. The brass, although with violin on high, takes up this melody. The percussionist then asserts himself with a thudding bass drum that continues all through many of the piece. There are crashes, transient solos by the piano and violin, and scrambling ensemble passages. What’s putting is the number of textures Reijonen evokes and their quicksilver modifications. The piece turns into more and more dissonant, as if to recommend the clashes of life behind the veil, or the issue of rising from it. At nearly 5 minutes, a lot of the band drops out and we hear deep thumps from the percussion, adopted by the brass taking part in lengthy notes whereas the pianist states the now acquainted melody after which solos. The motion ends peacefully with brass resolving the remaining stress. The fetching, memorable melody appears to win out.
“Transient” sounds unique to this Westerner’s ears. It begins with an prolonged (for this session) solo on violin. The transience could check with the composer’s childhood wanderings, or then once more, his want to simply accept change. There’s a cleverly written section for percussion with interjections of the identical phrase by Reijnonen. Later the violin solos over percussion, made up of what feels like tambourine, bass drum, and numerous hand drums. The percussionists dominate this motion, even after the cello and violin reenter, taking part in a written melody.
Subsequent comes what I hear as the important thing motion of the suite. It bears a sophisticated title: “The Weaver, Each So Typically Shifting Sands Beneath Her.” Weaving isn’t simple. It begins with Reijonen taking part in a easy repeated melody on electrical guitar. The bass enters and provides assist. Then the melody is replayed with variations over lengthy tones by trombone, flugelhorn, and violin. Even the pizzicato violin has a flip at that melody. A brief trombone solo comes alongside over a newly dissonant background. There’s a stoppage round six minutes in. Jussi restarts the band. Within the piece’s ultimate minutes the drummer lets go earlier than a quiet ending through which the flugelhorn is distinguished.
“Verso” begins in a now acquainted method with a single strummed chord, a silence, after which the guitarist reenters and ultimately introduces a fast, quietly dancing passage. Reijonen continues to play over the percussion … hand drums … and even solos modestly because the sample is performed pizzicato behind him. Then, at round two minutes, a type of explosion happens, a wildly dissonant passage on violin offers technique to a sudden insistence — even what may very well be described as a type of violence — as among the band members improvise aspect by aspect. Finally, trumpeter Jason Palmer enters right into a type of cross-cultural trade with the violin: he sounds dashingly Western and the violin sounds in any other case. We hear, because it had been, two cultures buying and selling opinions on the composed melody. One other passage for percussion arrives, which supplies technique to a piano solo. On Three Seconds, nobody solos for lengthy, and these monologues don’t happen in a vacuum. The group all the time surrounds and helps (and generally contradicts) the soloist. In “Verso” there’s a pause after the conflagration, adopted by a chorale model of the unique melody, as if all had been resolved. The ultimate voice is the violin taking part in its model of the melody.
The ultimate motion, “Median,” begins with Palmer superbly stating the melody on flugelhorn. He’s then joined by trombone and the remainder of the band. At instances, the bowed cello and violin stand out over the band’s repetitions of the melody. A wierd “rashing” sound from the percussion underlies a lot of this in any other case mild motion: it feels like somebody is dropping a load of lumber in an echo chamber. Finally the proceedings appear to nearly dissolve, as a blinding — or bedazzled — digital drone continues over the tinkling of a piano restating the theme. The piece dissipates into tonelessness, or possibly timelessness.
After the recording session, trumpeter Palmer asserted flatly that “Jussi’s a genius.” The imaginative methods through which Reijonen manipulates the group’s textures are nothing if not distinctive: he integrates natural-sounding, rigorously constructed written passages with evocative solos. The guitarist/composer confesses that he has documented “one hell of a journey.” He’s written one hell of a chunk.
Michael Ullman studied classical clarinet and was educated at Harvard, the College of Chicago, and the U. of Michigan, from which he acquired a PhD in English. The writer or co-author of two books on jazz, he has written on jazz and classical music for the Atlantic Month-to-month, New Republic, Excessive Constancy, Stereophile, Boston Phoenix, Boston Globe, and different venues. His articles on Dickens, Joyce, Kipling, and others have appeared in tutorial journals. For over 20 years, he has written a bi-monthly jazz column for Fanfare Journal, for which he additionally opinions classical music. At Tufts College, he teaches largely modernist writers within the English Division and jazz and blues historical past within the Music Division. He performs piano badly.