If someone is truly serious about jazz -- perhaps a musician, perhaps a critic, perhaps an A&R person -- he/she needs to pay some attention to Europe. Over the years, Europeans have made many valuable contributions to jazz, and anyone who believes that only Manhattan residents can be effective improvisers is just plain ignorant. This compilation, which The Finnish Music Information Center assembled in 2002, takes a look at some of the jazz talent that Finland has to offer. Most of the selections, which were recorded from 2000-2002, aren't groundbreaking, but are solid -- and that is true of everything from pianist Lenni-Kalle Taipale's exuberant, somewhat Chick Corea-ish "Pojama" to guitarist Niklas Winter's contemplative post-bop item "Afterthoughts" and harpist Iro Haarla's abstract, mildly avant-garde "Fenix" (a duet with saxman Pepa Päivinen). Finland, like other European countries, has a variety of jazz styles; someone who lives in Helsinki can find everything from funky soul-jazz to atonal free jazz. And even though this CD isn't quite as far-reaching as it could have been, it is still fairly diverse. One hears Jere Laukkanen's big band playing Afro-Cuban jazz on "Tercer Verano," while the group Ahava's "Jos Oisit" (which features singer Mia Simanainen) fuses post-bop with Finnish folk. Groove Convention's "Spunng" is a likable, if derivative, jazz-funk number along the lines of the Crusaders, while Gourmet's "Kebab Ranskalaisilla" offers an eccentric, quirky blend of jazz, rock, and Middle Eastern music. Finnish Jazz 2002 is hardly the last word on Finland's jazz scene of the early 2000s -- as many jazz musicians as that Scandinavian country has, a single 70-minute CD can only tell a small fraction of the story. Nonetheless, it isn't a bad CD to have on hand if you're hoping to get acquainted with some of Finland's 21st century improvisers.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson