Mika Pohjola

Landmark

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AllMusic Review by

This remarkable disc features Mika Pohjola's crafty "MikaSonik" ensemble, with Miguel Zenon on alto sax and flute, Ben Monder on guitar, Fernando Huergo on bass, and Roberto Dani on drums, with Johanna Grüssner contributing haunting vocals on occasion. Pohjola plays Fender Rhodes and other electric keys in addition to acoustic piano; on "Landmark" and "Retrospectives" he doubles certain melodies on harpsichord, as he has done on two previous albums (he may well be the first musician to employ the arcane instrument in a modern jazz ensemble, although Herbie Hancock played an electric harpsichord on a couple of unissued Miles Davis tracks in the late 60s.) Compositionally, Pohjola's work is involved yet infectious and profoundly melodic, driven by the virtuosity and strong personalities of his players. On tracks like "Screen Play" and "Future Apparent" the band purveys a hip, appealing species of electric jazz; the fluid melodies and richly layered sounds are somewhat reminiscent of Kurt Rosenwinkel's The Enemies of Energy. Pohjola's mellower side comes through on "A Ballad About Something" and "Old Couples Lullaby." In contrast, he makes loud mischief on the rhythmically skewered punk of "Young in the 80s" and conveys a peculiar, semi-rubato feel on the evocative "Summer Garden" (which features Monder and Dani in a duo exchange toward the end). Pohjola also works wonders with Grüssner's voice on an inspired arrangement of the fourth century Ambrosian hymn "Psalm 549," as well as the Finnish-titled "Reppurin Laulu" ("Vagabond's Song"), the lyrics of which are in the dead Karelian language. The highly recommended Landmark sets the bar very high for creative music in the year 2002.

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