Various Artists

Finnish Jazz 2003

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Here are two seemingly contradictory things that Americans are taught when they are learning about jazz: (1) New York City is the jazz capital of the world, and (2) Western Europe is, on the whole, much more supportive of jazz than the United States. Suffice to say that both places are important to jazz; N.Y.C. has been (and continues to be) the home of countless jazz heavyweights, but there is no getting around the fact that Western Europe's contributions to jazz (in terms of clubs, artists, festivals, and labels) have been quite valuable. While there are more Gwen Stefani fans than Jackie McLean fans in Sweden and France, the people who do support jazz in those countries are an extremely dedicated and enthusiastic bunch. Another jazz-friendly country is Finland, where the Finnish Music Information Center has been assembling compilations that spotlight the Scandinavian country's jazz scene. One of those compilations is Finnish Jazz 2003, which offers different jazz styles but tends to favor a cerebral approach to post-bop. The word cerebral easily describes post-bop selections like drummer Markus Ketola's "Maisemakuvia Pyöreässä Kehyksessä" (an encounter with the UMO Jazz Orchestra), pianist Jarmo Savolainen's "Such a Sight," and drummer André Sumelius' "Kaira," all of which are enjoyable if one has a taste for the abstract and the intellectual. None of the tracks are atonal free jazz, although an inside/outside perspective asserts itself on Pepa Päivinen's mildly avant-garde "We'll See." Meanwhile, a less intellectual and more groove-oriented outlook prevails on SlowHill's "Super Blue" and Quintessence's "1st Impressions," neither of which are really jazz but rather, slightly jazzy funk. Few, if any, of the artists on Finnish Jazz 2003 will be accused of trying to reinvent the wheel; nonetheless, their performances are generally respectable and paint a likable picture of the Finnish jazz scene.