Mika Pohjola

Live at the Blue Note

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AllMusic Review by

Finnish pianist and composer Mika Pohjola is a modern day jazz stylist and innovator who has assimilated the entirety of the jazz tradition -- and much of the early 20th century classical one -- and turned it on its head with an individual voice that swings deep, wide, and melodically. With his trio that includes bassist Matt Penman and drummer Roberto Dani, this immigrant New Yorker composes a music that is equal parts hard bop, swing, and post-bop modalism, with more than a little of Debussy and Ravel thrown in for measure. Tracks like "A Farmer's Dream" showcase the intricate harmonic structures Pohjola is capable of erecting and executing even at dizzying tempos. His extrapolation of the blues in creating an 11/8 sprint of augmented chords and bright shimmering ostinatos is gravity defying. Later, on "Relax in the Sun," a gentle Latin swing rhythm accompanies his exploration of Bill Evans' harmonic ideas based on minor sixths and flatted ninths. But the heart and soul of Pohjola's playing is in the set's closer, "Mood, 4:30 a.m." Elegiac and pastoral at the same time, Pohjola's pianism is filled with lyrical heart and moving washes of unpretentious classical soul à la Scriabin and Olivier Messiaen. This is one hell of a live record by a talent who deserves to record regularly for Blue Note as well as play the club.

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