Vesa-Matti Loiri


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Even in our so-called information age, where everything is up for grabs on a global level, and international boundaries of culture have -- at least theoretically -- become blurred, it can be surprising to realize how little we often know of other nations' artistic history. How many Americans, for instance, are familiar with the name of Vesa-Matti Loiri? In Finland, Loiri is an iconic, multi-talented artist who has an eclectic, multi-Platinum musical discography and has racked up the Finnish equivalent of Grammys and Emmys for his acting work over the decades. The U.S. release of Loiri's 1971 album 4+20 might go some way toward spreading the word outside of Finland. It finds Loiri functioning primarily as a flautist, though he makes a couple of casual vocal contributions over the course of the album. Though it's a mostly instrumental outing, 4+20 isn't exactly a jazz album. True to Loiri's many-sided musical personality, it mixes jazz, folk, and rock freely. The result is a cross between the groove-conscious, flute-centric post-bop work of Herbie Mann (Loiri covers a number of tunes from the Mann songbook here) and the flights of flautist fancy essayed by the likes of Traffic's Chris Wood or even early Jethro Tull. The album's title track is an instrumental excursion that uses the Crosby, Stills & Nash tune as its starting point, and is cut into three pieces that bookend and bisect the record. The comic side of Loiri's acting work comes out in "Mummon Kaappikello," in which his singing is sped up to achieve a Woody Woodpecker-like effect. Over the course of the album, a loose, fun, slightly stoned feeling prevails, one that's very much in keeping with the era, and is exemplified by Loiri's original liner notes, which proclaim "This record was made spontaneously, without any great preparations. It is not meant to serve commercial purposes."

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