Saturday, December 1, 2012

Esa Pietila Karhea Fiasko 2009

Finland...Not exactly known as the hot bed of jazz for Eastern Europe but never assume and always expect the unexpected. From a land know for its stark yet demanding beauty not to mention the cultural phenomenon that is the epi-center of Finnish daily life we have a solo saxophone work from arguable the finsist saxophonists from Eastern Europe in Karhea from Esa Pietila. The solo performance can be sublime or ridiculous as their are numbers sonic trips wires lying in wait  for the unsuspecting artist. Pietila clearly shows why his prolific talent has his work revered by the masters of their craft.

Solo recordings show the vulnerability of the artists, warts and all...Karhea is Finnish means a plethora of things mainly reflecting music texture with form and function politely tossed aside for texture, tonality and the tenacity of the artist and his or her inventive lyrical style. The loose translation for the American aficionado is "rough." Edgy may fit slightly better but it may well depend on where you are as a listener or perhaps has a musician lyrically. Pieteilla carries the zen like minimalism of less is more to an extent that far out lasts his contemporaries while never losing his keen ear for melody or the ability to change harmonics on the fly. Being a critic or I as prefer "jazz advocate" there is far more to this gig than new releases. Older releases are important, maybe more so. Have the older releases stood the test of time? Do the older releases sound dated as if technology was merely an afterthought? Karhea is an extraordinary release that hold up incredibly well despite the three year age gap.

"Lighting's Surprise" is a master class in the art of the tenor sax. A conceptual piece where a sailor thinks perhaps he has eased through a squall only to find out the intensity of the storm has yet to finish its strength and intensity. "Karhea" has that rough around the edges rawness that Americans would refer to as free jazz. I have a huge issue with the terminology of free jazz which was actually created thanks to a handful of critics that had no clue as to where and what the artist was trying to achieve. Conversely, I don't believe length of time an competency go hand in hand. One can play, or not.....Thirty years on the band stand is simply steady work for thirty years. "Monk's Grief" is an introsepctive tune that strike a personal chord concerning a crisis of faith. Doubts in regards to one's belief and value system are often something one never returns from. There is a unique and inviting spiritual edge, a good karma. The positive affirmation that good things can, do and will happen to good people.

Karhea is a landmark release for one of the finest saxophone player that I have had the exception to hear. With the exception of Ivo Perleman, Esa Pietila is now hitting his creative genius. Standing the test of time finds Esa Pietila simply aging like fine wine. Pietila gets better and more robust with age. A no brainer for sure...Available through CD Baby.

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Tracks: Lighting's Surprise; Spark Revolves, Karhea; Monk's Grief*; Back to Joy; Brave; Free Hilu*:,  Freedom of Key ; Peace in piece; Hot Caliber Cuckoo; What If; Forest Dojoing*.

Esa Pietila: tenor saxophone, additional bells and gongs*