Heikki Sarmanto Big Band / Heikki Sarmanto

Everything Is It

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In the jazz world of the early ‘70s, a million doors were being thrown open all at once, with seemingly limitless new possibilities being put into the hands of players and composers, not only in America but all over the globe. Finland was no exception -- even though it's a nation not immediately associated with jazz, it nevertheless had a vital jazz scene, and pianist/composer/bandleader Heikki Sarmanto was one of its most promising young talents at the time. Sarmanto was already a few albums into his recording career when he released Everything Is It in 1972, but this was new territory for him in that it was his first big-band recording. Sarmanto's composing and arranging abilities were truly put to the test on Everything Is It, which is dominated by "Marat," a half-hour-long four-part suite. This ambitious piece moves through a multitude of styles and textures -- Mingus-flavored horn lines, folkish motifs, freewheeling, bop-based improv, a drum solo, you name it, "Marat" has it. The only element of the piece that's bothersome is Taru Valjakka's semi-operatic vocals, which feel a tad strident and anomalous in this context, but they're far from ubiquitous, and don't unduly mar the proceedings. The two shorter pieces that close out the album show Sarmanto's growing mastery of post-bop compositional techniques on a smaller scale, without sacrificing the majesty established by front-loading the record with "Marat."

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