The 21st century has been rife with reissues of European jazz, rock, and funk. Many European and Japanese labels have been prolific in their offerings, but American imprints have been slower on the uptake. That said, Porter Records, out of Winter Park, FL, issues new, vintage, and forgotten recordings by artists of all stripes from all over the globe; they've uncovered a number of forgotten jazz masterpieces in the process; in particular, three albums from Finnish pianist Heikki Sarmanto. Sarmanto appears on Fender Rhodes on 3rd Version, this stellar seventh offering by his countryman, saxophonist, composer, and arranger Eero Koivistoinen, and originally released in 1973. 3rd Version also features the talents of another Finnish superchopper in guitarist Jukka Tolonen (of Wigwam and Tasvallen Presidentti). Other members include upriught bassist Pekka Sarmanto (Heikki's brother) and drummers Reino Laine and American Craig Herndon. This set's four long tunes can rightfully be called "fusion," because of their reliance on knotty compositions, frequently shifting time signatures and rhythms, and some electric instruments. That said, Koivistoinen's platter is far from the generic brand of fusion. This is jazz of the highest order, with expert musicianship and a knowledge not only of tradition, but also of Latin musical forms, classical music, and rock & roll. Three of the tunes here were written by Koivistoinen, and the other by Sarmanto. The symbiosis in the rhythm section is remarkable, no matter how complex the changes and dynamic shifts get. Laine takes syncopation to an extreme while Herndon keeps a solidly swinging back beat and provides colorful percussion. Pekka Sarmanto is a criminally unsung and inventive bassist: check his solo in "Near But Far Away" and his propulsive pizzicato and arco force in "Muy Bonita Ciudad," where flamenco meets modal music and funky keys. Koivistoinen's soprano (especially) and tenor work is on par with that of Bennie Maupin's, and Heikki Sarmanto is one of the most lyrical pianists of his generation. Tolonen, despite being the youngest member of this ensemble, is already in full possession of his chops, though he plays them more rhythmically here than he would later as a soloing firebrand (he does take an ingenious solo on this track and closer "Latin Power").Throughout its 44 minutes, 3rd Version is a stellar example of emotionally charged and technically expert European jazz; it is a restored gem that not only stands the test of time, but rivals anything from America during the same period.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek